| by Mark Peluso

Fall 2020

Dear Middlebury Community,

With the arrival of student leaders on the Vermont campus this week, we had the first opportunity to conduct COVID-19 testing with a large group returning for the fall semester on Tuesday and Wednesday, August 18 and 19. I am writing to report that, of the 284 tests taken, zero were positive, 279 were negative, and five had an insufficient sample result and will be retested today. 

While none of these individuals are experiencing symptoms, those with an insufficient sample/retest result have been notified and instructed to remain in arrival quarantine in their rooms, pending the results of their retests. If they receive a negative result upon retesting, they will be released to campus quarantine and will be retested again for their day-seven test. While in room quarantine, these students may use the bathroom, pick up grab-and-go meals at their dorm drop-off point if they are not receiving meal delivery directly to their rooms, and report to the testing center for their follow-up test today, unless they are having symptoms of COVID-19. 

Students with negative results are now in campus quarantine, meaning they may move about campus while continuing health and safety precautions, including daily symptom and temperature checks; wearing cloth face coverings except while eating or doing personal grooming; regular handwashing; and physical distancing. They will be tested again seven days after their arrival in accordance with our testing protocol for all students. Campus quarantine will continue until all students who are enrolled to study on campus have completed testing and any required room quarantine. Students living on campus may not go into the town of Middlebury during this time, and those living off campus who are enrolled for on-campus study are subject to the same testing and quarantine rules and safety precautions. These students must remain in their off-campus residences except when traveling to and from campus for required orientation, classes, or other activities. For more information about testing procedures and what to expect, please visit the COVID-19 Testing Instructions webpage.

COVID-19 Dashboard and Testing Procedures

As part of our efforts to inform the greater Middlebury community, we have created a COVID-19 Reporting Dashboard that will be updated each day by noon when test results are available. This dashboard will include daily results, cumulative COVID-19 positive cases, and the number of individuals in isolation or contact quarantine. Contact quarantine is for an individual who is a close contact with a confirmed positive case of COVID-19.

Our goal is to keep the entire community prepared and informed while protecting the privacy of those who test positive or who receive an inconclusive result due to insufficient sampling. Currently, the dashboard includes the results of practice-run testing of 94 students and employees as well as the first round of student tests and a positive test of a community member last spring. That individual has recovered, as noted in the dashboard.

While we did not anticipate many positive tests, if any, among this first group, we are prepared for the possibility given that our students are coming from different states, including areas that have experienced recent spikes in new cases. As all returning students are required to do, the August 18 arrival group began quarantine procedures two weeks ahead of their arrival to minimize their exposure before traveling to campus. This essential element of our return-to-campus plan exceeds both Vermont and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and that of many other colleges and universities. 

Students reported to the COVID-19 testing center at Virtue Field House upon arrival, followed by immediate room quarantine while they awaited test results. We were prepared to initiate isolation housing, meal delivery and pickup, health monitoring, mental health support, and residential life checks and will do so if these measures are needed when the next groups of students arrive on August 26 and 28. The Vermont Department of Health has measures in place to conduct contact tracing confidentially and to ensure privacy is protected in the event of any positive results. The Department of Health does not initiate contact tracing for inconclusive test results but instead recommends quarantine until a negative result is received.

Targeted Dynamic Testing

Following the initial testing of students on days zero and seven after their arrival, we will begin Targeted Dynamic Testing (TDT) of 750 individuals per week, starting September 8. The focus of the first round of testing will be employees who have been working on campus; thereafter, we will be selecting students, staff, and faculty for dynamic testing, which we may scale up or down depending on local health conditions. More information about TDT is available in our Return to Campus Guide and Student Arrival Checklist, which we are regularly updating.

Finally, as we advance with our reopening plans and continued testing, I would like to take the opportunity to remind you that in a small, close-knit community like ours, there may be temptation to speculate about whether a particular individual or group tested positive for COVID-19 and about what measures are being taken to keep everyone safe. We would encourage you not to engage in this type of information sharing should the situation arise, in order to respect the privacy of those involved.

Thank you for your continued support and cooperation as we welcome our students back to campus, especially to those who assisted at the testing center this week and to all who have been working so diligently to prepare for remote and in-person learning. We are all in this together, and many students have told us they are very grateful to be back at Middlebury even as we all live, learn, and work in a much different environment.



Mark Peluso
Director of Health Services and College Physician