20211110-LOC-Keene State Filer

File photo by Hannah Schroeder / Sentinel Staff

Keene State College students walk down Appian Way late last month. The college reported its highest one-week total of new COVID-19 infections last week.

Keene State College reported its highest number of COVID-19 cases so far this academic year in the past week, according to the college’s online COVID-19 data dashboard.

Twenty-seven cases were confirmed last week, up from the previous week’s seven cases. There are now 29 active cases at the college — 26 among students and three among employees, according to the dashboard, which was updated Monday.

Last week marked 10 weeks into the fall 2021 semester, and the uptick in cases is on par with trends seen in week 10 of the fall 2020 and spring 2021 semesters, according to Mary Beth “MB” Lufkin, vice president for enrollment and student engagement.

If the number of cases continues to rise, the college may employ additional measures, such as limiting the size of events and gatherings, Lufkin said in an email Tuesday. For now, though, masking requirements will remain in place, and all students and employees will continue to be tested weekly through the end of the semester.

People who have been in contact with those with confirmed coronavirus cases are re-tested three to five days after their exposure, and this semester the college has been holding daily on-campus symptomatic testing, according to Lufkin.

“These strategies allow us to quickly identify and isolate positive cases,” she said.

The college has a more than 90 percent compliance rate with the weekly testing and has conducted more than 40,000 surveillance tests since the start of the school year, Lufkin said. The overall positivity rate is 0.27 percent, she said. There are about 3,100 students and 630 employees at Keene State this semester.

There has been no evidence of transmission in classrooms, Lufkin said, and the college plans to continue with in-person instruction through the end of the semester.

Due to a state law passed earlier this year, Keene State did not require a COVID-19 vaccine this fall. But the college is encouraging all students and staff to get the shot and consider sharing proof of vaccination with the school’s Wellness Center through a confidential online portal. When people voluntarily share their vaccination status, the college can more effectively establish health and safety protocols, according to the Keene State website.

As of Tuesday, 82 percent of employees and 72 percent of students have confirmed their vaccination against the viral respiratory disease, Lufkin said, adding that the administration is still receiving more information about vaccination status.

Anyone who tests positive for the novel coronavirus at Keene State is contacted by the school’s Rapid Response Team, which provides instructions for isolating. Vaccinated individuals identified as close contacts of people who test positive are not required to quarantine but do need to be tested three to five days after exposure. Unvaccinated people identified as close contacts must quarantine for 10 days.

As of Tuesday, Franklin Pierce University, the Monadnock Region’s other residential college, reported no active cases, according to the university’s online dashboard. The private university has about 1,200 students and 235 employees at its Rindge campus, and is requiring students and employees to be inoculated against the coronavirus this year.

Molly Bolan can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1436 or mbolan@keenesentinel.com. Follow her on Twitter @BolanMolly.