The rumors began spreading through social media on the evening of Oct. 7: someone had tested positive for COVID-19. The entire block was infected, some said. The case was on East Side, or maybe there were cases in Lake House and Stone D. Someone knew someone who knew someone who knew a friend who had been quarantined.
By the next morning only the first claim had been corroborated when Wellesley’s COVID-19 dashboard updated to reflect that a member of the community had tested positive for COVID-19, the first case affiliated with the College since August and the first on-campus case. In a statement to The Wellesley News, Karen Petrulakis, General Counsel and leader of the Health and Safety committee, said that the individual was promptly isolated and appropriate follow up measures were underway. Petrulakis also wrote that out of privacy concerns, the College will not be communicating more information regarding any positive cases outside of the dashboard.
“My initial reaction was mixed. My first one was feeling a little mad because I felt that some people weren’t taking measures seriously and the rest of us are trying our hardest to keep things under control and not endanger our sibs,” a sophomore, who wished to remain anonymous, told the Wellesley News. “But I also feel bad for the subject for all the rumors because there’s going to be a target on them after they recover and they may get alienated. Hopefully they recover and feel better.”
According to an email sent from The Office of Residential Life and Housing and signed by Dean of Students Sheilah Horton, all individuals who were exposed were contacted by the end of the day Thursday, Oct. 8. As of Friday evening on Oct. 9, no other cases have been reported.
“There were a lot of rumors going around, but I think that we should take them all with a grain of salt because we don’t know what’s accurate or not,” Elaine Sun ’23 said. “I feel very confident about what Wellesley is doing. They’ve been very diligent in their testing and contact tracing, and obviously it’s hard for them to keep track of what everyone is doing.”
The incident occurred only one day after College President Paula Johnson wrote to the community regarding moving forward with planning for Spring 2021. While the majority of the College’s plan is slated to remain the same as previously stated, with two terms in place of the traditional Spring semester, President Johnson did note that the start of classes would be pushed back by a week to allow for a phased move in.
Upper administration has long emphasized the inevitability of positive cases on campus. While travel outside of the city of Wellesley is strongly discouraged, it is not prohibited, and the College acknowledges that there are certain circumstances that will require students to travel to Boston and other high-risk areas.
Instead, the College has focused on enforcing health measures on campus such as emphasizing social distancing and only eating with blockmates. However, some feel that current College policies are not restrictive enough, and may lull students into a sense of false security.
“I’m pretty nervous because I feel like a lot of people have let their guard down since we’ve gone so long without having a case on campus. Thus, it would be much easier for an outbreak to spread throughout campus than at the beginning of the year,” Laura Chin ‘23 said. “I’ve definitely seen and heard people being more cautious since news of the positive case broke, but I worry if it’s too little too late.”