Juniata College officials have reported the largest number of COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the semester Friday, prompting what they’re deeming an all-weekend quarantine to mitigate and further assess the situation.

A total of six students, plus one staff member, tested positive, and all were tested as part of the campus’ testing surveillance program. Those students who have tested positive have already self isolated at an undisclosed location. The staff member is self-isolating at home.

According to information from college officials, all students living on campus are to remain in their residence halls unless they are picking up food, using the restroom or have a medical emergency.

Additionally, no events, practices and gatherings are allowed over the weekend, all campus buildings, except for Baker Refectory and residence halls, are closed.

Students are also not allowed to travel off campus.

Roy Nagle, director of environmental health and safety at Juniata College, said contact tracing is underway at this time.

“Most of the close contacts and faculty members who have been in close contact with the positive cases have been notified,” he said. “Right now, we’re reaching out to the broader contacts.”

Close contact, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and the state Department of Health, include those who have been in close proximity with the positive person longer than 15 minutes and within 6 feet of distance.

“Those could be roommates, any romantic partners and others who have been in close proximity without masks for a prolonged period of time,” he said. “We’ve already had them tested in the appropriate time frame.”

Those close contacts have already been asked to quarantine as well, added Nagel.

Casual contacts, according to Nagel, may include other classmates, teammates, and groups that they may not know until about until contact tracing is complete.

“We do not require them to quarantine, but we will be putting them on a testing schedule to make sure we can minimize transmission,” said Nagel.

Nagel noted that when a positive case is found, the surveillance testing ramps up more, and up until this point, there had been no evidence of any community transmission among students or staff on campus.

“This is a sign that our safety protocols of social distancing, mask wearing and other measures are working,” he said.

As they assess the situation by contacting more casual contacts of the positive cases, this will allow them to fully assess the situation to see what will happen after the weekend ends.

“We will decide this weekend on what we’ll do based on the results (of the close contacts) and get a lot more testing (of casual contacts) completed Monday,” he said. “But, we’ll decide this weekend if there could be a possibility of remote instruction, at least for the beginning of next week.”

Additional case found

at HAMSLess than 24 hours after Huntingdon Area School District parents, guardians and staff were notified late Thursday that a middle school learner tested positive for COVID-19, a second notification was made Friday afternoon informing them of a second case.

According to an email from the district, officials were notified Friday of a second positive test result from the middle school.

District superintendent Fred Foster closed only the middle school for in-person learning Friday and building administration continued the process of “contact tracing” throughout the day.

As per the state Department of Education, a “close contact” is defined as individuals who have been exposed (within 6 feet distance for at least 15 consecutive minutes) to someone who has been infected by the virus and it is unknown if the close contact will go on to develop COVID-19.

All parents/guardians of learners that were in “close contact” were contacted directly by the building administration or nurses prior to families receiving Friday’s email.

“We have identified two positive cases of COVID-19 and approximately 45 close contacts. Those identified as close contacts will be quarantined from school for 14 days and will participate in remote learning,” Foster wrote in the email.

District administration has been and will continue to be in communication with the state Department of Health (DOH). The administration will monitor all situations regarding COVID-19 and will keep parents, guardians and staff informed.

The positive case is the district’s third, as a staff member in the high school tested positive earlier in the week. As a result, students in all four of the district’s buildings learned remotely Oct. 12.

During a special meeting of the Huntingdon Area School Board Oct. 14, directors voted 6-3 to continue to offer full-time in-person instruction until the directors decide otherwise, despite the county’s community transmission rate for COVID-19 being at moderate for the weeks of Oct. 2 and 12.

Kylie can be reached at khawn@huntingdondailynews.com.

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