Keuka College closes campus operations temporarily

John Christensen
The Chronicle-Express

25 new cases since Friday; healthy students allowed to return home, quarantining students to follow once cleared by Yates County Public Health

KEUKA PARK — Keuka College announced last week they are temporarily closing campus operations as the number of students infected by COVID-19 spiked following an off-campus party.

Keuka College has shut down campus operations due to a COVID-19 outbreak that has infected nearly 100 students so far.

As of press time Monday afternoon, the total number of students who tested positive stands at 97, plus two college employees. Yates County Public Health has declared 56 cases resolved, leaving 46 current active cases.

The college is making arrangements for healthy students to return home once cleared by Public Health as they continue to navigate the cluster of Coronavirus cases.

New Cases

Yates County Public Health Deputy Director Sara Christensen says, “Since Friday’s report, we have received 25 new cases; 21 are Keuka College-related and four are community-acquired and not related to Keuka College.

The total number of cases as of 12:30 p.m. on Oct. 19 is 176, with none currently in hospital. The number recovered is 127 with just seven deaths recorded earlier in the year.

The number of active cases is 42. Those in isolation and quarantine are 193 with more to add as tracing investigations continue.

Yates County’s seven-day rolling average of new positive cases stands at 2.75%.

Christensen says they are following N.Y. State Dept. of Health and CDC guidelines for declaring individual cases resolved.

Individuals must be: 

  • 10 days out from the beginning of symptoms
  • Fever free for 72 hours without the help of medication
  • Showing improvement of symptoms

Christensen says both the NYSDOH and CDC have declared those who have been cleared are “very unlikely to transmit COVID-19.”

Keuka College President Amy Storey said in a statement sent to students, faculty, and staff last week, “While the public health guidance to keep students on-campus remains best practice, the growing number of cases has made separating healthy students from quarantining populations increasingly difficult. County and state health officials have given their permission for the college to allow healthy students who are not subject to a quarantine or isolation order to leave campus in order to create additional isolation and quarantine capacity.”

The college is asking students who have not tested positive or been directed to quarantine to make arrangements to return home by the end of the week. Although the college moved to remote instruction last week, Thursday and Friday synchronous classes have been canceled to facilitate the transition.

“As the challenge has escalated, we’ve taken the guidance offered by our health partners and enacted even more strident steps to heighten public safety and safeguard our students,” said Dr. Chris Alterio, chair of the college’s Reopening Task Force.

Public-health directives require students quarantining or isolating to remain in place. Those students will be released by public health officials to return home once they are no longer infectious.

The college had experienced just a single positive coronavirus case during the first six weeks of the semester. That all changed after a public health investigation determined that a non-sanctioned, off-campus social gathering Oct. 3 triggered the onset of the current cluster.

Since the first positive student case was reported Oct. 7, the college has instituted a series of escalating response strategies, including transitioning to distance learning, closing high-traffic campus facilities, canceling all athletics-related activity, requiring non-essential personnel to work from home, and converting the Geiser Dining Commons to 100% take-out.

“We had hoped this step wouldn’t be necessary,” said President Storey, “but the quickly escalating number of positive cases has made this temporary shut-down unavoidable.”