RINDGE — In-person classes resumed Tuesday at Franklin Pierce University as COVID-19 cases on campus have declined following an outbreak that prompted the school to issue a 10-day shelter-in-place mandate earlier this month.
That order expired at 8 a.m. Monday, according to a message posted on the university’s website. At that time, the campus library and the Grimshaw Gudewicz Activity Center, also known as “the Bubble,” reopened with capacity limits, though the dining hall remained closed for in-person meals and guests are not allowed in any dorm rooms, according to the notice.
In-person classes did not resume until Tuesday to give the school time to test everyone who left campus for the duration of the shelter-in-place order.
During the 10-day order, students living on campus were allowed to leave their rooms to use the bathroom, do laundry, pick up meals from the dining hall and address health needs, including COVID-19 testing. All in-person extracurricular activities, including athletics, were suspended, commuter students could not visit campus, and nonessential travel off campus was prohibited, though students could leave campus for essential errands, such as medical appointments and grocery shopping.
Franklin Pierce issued the mandate Feb. 11, after 18 students had tested positive in the previous 24 hours, bringing the number of active cases on campus to 33 at that time. The coronavirus outbreak grew to a peak of 48 active cases last week, but as of Monday, that number had dropped to 14, according to FPU’s online COVID-19 dashboard.
“We are thankful to all members of our community for remaining vigilant and abiding by our health and safety guidelines to decrease the presence of COVID on our campus, and those efforts are being reflected in the reduced number of active cases,” spokeswoman Marissa Colcord said in an email Tuesday.
The university tested all students for COVID-19 last week, when faculty and staff members also had the option of being tested, Colcord said. Franklin Pierce has about 1,200 students and 235 employees at its Rindge campus.
The university is testing 400 to 500 randomly selected students and staff each week this semester — about double the weekly testing it conducted in the fall, when the school reported 26 coronavirus cases. Testing for athletes and athletic staff, as required by the NCAA, is expected to add a few hundred more per week.
Before students returned to campus beginning Jan. 24, they had to present proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within seven days before their arrival. Commuter students and staff needed to present a negative test result within a week before the start of classes Jan. 27.