On Monday, Keene State College reported the highest number of new COVID-19 cases to date this academic year, according to the institution’s COVID-19 dashboard.
Last week, the college confirmed 28 new cases of the disease, bringing the total number of active cases to 32 as of Sunday. Of these, 28 are students and four employees, according to the dashboard. Previously, the highest number of new cases this school year in a week was 27 and was reported on November 8.
The recent rise came as no surprise per se, according to Mary Beth “MB” Lufkin, vice president for enrollment and student engagement.
“We expected an increase in the number of COVID cases given the current transmission rate in our region,” she said in an email Monday evening.
Some cases were identified through weekly college surveillance tests, while others were discovered through testing by outside agencies. Last week’s confirmed cases include students who tested positive over the Thanksgiving holiday and haven’t returned to campus, Lufkin said, as well as cases linked to relatives from elementary and high school affairs.
“KSC not [intend] “We need to be able to determine whether this is a trend or a temporary spike in cases.” However, the college has limited the number of spectators at a track and field game to the weekend, she added.
The recent numbers aren’t the highest the college has seen over the course of the pandemic, Lufkin said. Last spring, cases identified at the college comprised about 53 percent of the city’s COVID-19 cases, while that figure is only about 18 percent this fall, according to Lufkin.
The semester ends on December 17, and the college plans to continue with personal instruction and maintain current health protocols, including masking, weekly tests, and restricted meetings.
“We will continue to monitor the data over the next two weeks and adjust operational responses as necessary,” she said.
In accordance with a state law passed earlier this year, the college did not require students and staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19. However, Keene State — with about 3,100 students and 630 staff — encourages students and staff to get vaccinated and share proof of vaccination on a confidential online portal, which helps the college establish effective health and safety protocols, according to her web site.
According to Lufkin, 74 percent of students and 86 percent of employees reported on Monday that they had been vaccinated for an overall vaccination rate of 78 percent.
Keene State’s latest number of cases comes as New Hampshire’s COVID numbers continue to climb. The state reported an average of 1,060 cases per day from Nov. 27 to Dec. 3 — a three percent increase from the previous week.