A Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention investigation remains open at Bowdoin College after 43 cases of COVID-19 have been identified since the beginning of the fall semester.
According to Maine CDC Communications Director Robert Long, the CDC and the college have been in communication, and one campus cluster has been identified at the college so far this semester.
“A campus cluster is similar to an outbreak and requires similar response protocols,” Long said in an email. “The term simply acknowledges the difference between campus living and other congregate living settings such as long-term care facilities and group homes.”
Long added that “the college’s aggressive testing regimen identified cases quickly and likely reduced potential risk of further transmission.”
Of the 43 cases reported, 16 — made up of 15 students and one employee — remained active as of Sunday night. The college has a nearly 100% vaccination rate among students and staff. For the first time since the pandemic began, all approximately 1,960 students returned to campus this semester.
All the recorded cases were breakthroughs among vaccinated individuals, and none required hospitalization.
“We were expecting some cases, we knew we would have some,” Bowdoin College COVID-19 Resource Coordinator Mike Ranen said. “It was a little higher than expected, but nothing that we couldn’t handle.”
According to Ranen, students who test positive are either put in college isolation housing or go to a location outside of the college’s program, such as if the student is local and can go home. Those in the college’s isolation housing receive food delivery, telehealth services and work remotely with professors to best engage in academics.
The expectation is that students will isolate for 10 days, Ranen said, and students must also be cleared by the college’s health services.
To prevent further cases, Ranen said, the college immediately began contact tracing, increased testing and moved to a stricter campus operating level, which puts more restrictions on gathering in residence halls and makes dining take-out only.
A few hundred students were identified as close contacts, according to Ranen, who were asked to self-isolate to any extent possible and take a COVID-19 test for five days after exposure.
Under the college’s current rules, students can leave campus for personal reasons without prior approval. As of Sunday night, the college most recently reported a case on Sept. 10. An indoor mask mandate remains in place.
Ranen said the college is evaluating test results, use of isolation housing and local and state COVID-19 data daily to determine the college’s current restrictions and operating level. The college expects to change operating level frequently throughout the semester, Ranen said.
“We are optimistic that a fully vaccinated community such as Bowdoin will be able to continue the semester with minimal health issues,” Ranen added.
Between March 2020 and May 2021, Bowdoin College recorded 47 cases of COVID-19. Over the summer, one additional case was recorded, putting the total number of COVID-19 cases recorded at the college since the beginning of the pandemic at 91.
As of Monday, 80,510 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in total statewide, resulting in 961 deaths. In Cumberland County, 19,040 cases have been reported and 213 deaths.
According to the Maine CDC, just over 72.5% of Maine residents had received a final dose of the COVID-19 vaccine as of Monday.