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Williams Removes Two Students for Breaking COVID-19 Protocol; First Round of Student Tests Yield No Positives
By Stephen Dravis, iBerkshires Staff
07:09PM / Thursday, August 27, 2020
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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Williams College has removed two students from campus for violating the school's quarantine order for returning students.
 
President Maud Mandel made the announcement in an email to the college community on Thursday.
 
"Over the last few weeks, we've regretfully had to convert two on-campus students to remote study status after they violated the college's quarantine," Mandel wrote in a letter co-signed by Dean Marlene Sandstrom. "Judging from the campus reaction, some people may not understand the reasons for our policies, or may feel we're enforcing them too strictly."
 
Mandel did not specify the nature of the violation.
 
Word of the students' removal comes on a day of otherwise positive news for the college on the COVID-19 front.
 
The first day of Williams College's testing of returning students yielded no positive results for COVID-19, according to the college's public "dashboard" of testing results.
 
On Wednesday, the college was reporting having conducted just shy of 1,000 tests.
 
On Thursday, three days after the college started welcoming underclassmen back to campus, the number was 1,331 tests.
 
A college spokesperson Thursday morning confirmed that the 1,331 number includes Monday's tests, which include "students, staff and faculty."
 
Since the college's testing program began on Aug. 17, it is yet to have turned up a positive test for COVID-19, according to the dashboard.
 
The college is employing a phased approach to the return of students, accepting and testing a couple of hundred students per day through Sept. 7.
 
All students have been ordered to quarantine in their residence until they have received a second negative test for the novel coronavirus. Students have been told to expect their initial quarantine to last "a minimum of five to seven days," according to an Aug. 6 letter from Sandstrom.
 
Mandel and Sandstrom's sternly worded Thursday letter to the community called for continued vigilance and adherance to the school's COVID-19 regulations.
 
"If quarantine isn't fully honored, this system fails," they wrote. "If a family member enters your dorm to help you move in; if you take a walk around campus before going into quarantine; if you travel out of Williamstown without permission, you're incrementally increasing risk to everyone. Despite our desire to be forgiving, a 'no harm, no foul' philosophy simply isn't possible given the rate at which COVID-19 is spreading on college campuses."
 
Mandel's letter links to a Wednesday New York Times article reporting that 26,000 cases and 64 deaths attributable to COVID-19 have been linked to colleges and universities since the pandemic began.
 
"[We] want to take this opportunity to reaffirm that each of you who's living on campus or off-campus in Williamstown is required to sign and abide by the community health commitment and scrupulously follow our rules," the Thursday letter reads.
 
That community health commitment outlines the college's rules on testing, social distancing and face coverings and concludes, in bold print, "any failure to comply may be subject to sanction or discipline in accordance with college policies."
 
There is some data to indicate that Sandstrom's Aug. 6 letter, which announced more restrictions for returning students during the fall semester, including an initial ban on off-campus travel at least through September, may have deterred some students from returning for in-person classes.
 
On July 15, college officials at a virtual town hall told the Williamstown community that Williams was anticipating 1,600 students who had decided to return to town for classes.
 
On Thursday afternoon, college spokesperson Gregory Shook said the school's current numbers are 1,364 students in college-owned housing with another 81 planning to live locally off-campus with on-campus priviliges; that makes a total of 1,445 students, down 9.6 percent from the figure cited in mid-July.
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