Claremont Colleges see rise in COVID-19 cases following move-in

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The 5Cs saw a rise in COVID-19 cases following fall 2023 student move in. (Nicole Cepeda • The Student Life)

As students returned to campus for the fall semester, COVID-19 cases rose across the Claremont Colleges — but COVID-19 policies, relaxed at many campuses over the summer, have stayed the same.

Several of the 7Cs continue to track COVID-19 cases among students. As of Sept. 8, there were more than 50 active positive cases across the five undergraduate colleges.

Claremont McKenna College (CMC) reported a total of 14 positive cases since Aug. 28 according to Gilien Silsby, CMC’s director of news and media relations. Judy Augsburger, director of public relations at Harvey Mudd College (HMC), said the school reported 18 positive cases since Aug. 20. Meanwhile, Pomona College’s total cases amounted to around one percent of its student body, according to Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs Traci Arwari.

Emma Liang SC ’26 tested positive for COVID-19 over Labor Day weekend, disrupting her first week of classes and putting her behind academically.

“I think it was a drawback to not have students participate in mandatory testing during move-in,” Liang said. She added that over three years into the pandemic, “we should be well-equipped enough to act preventatively towards [COVID-19], instead of just reactively.”

Staff have been affected by the rise in cases as well. At Pomona, there was an outbreak of COVID-19 at Frary Dining Hall over Labor Day weekend, prompting the implementation of a mask requirement beginning Sept. 6 for all Frary employees, which is still in effect.

In an email addressing Pomona’s student body, Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Avis Hinkson referenced this outbreak and urged recipients to take the necessary steps to remain healthy.

Scripps College and Pitzer College did not respond to TSL’s inquiries on the number of positive cases at each school so far. However, Scripps students did receive an email on Sept. 1 about an uptick in cases on their campus from Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs Adriana di Bartolo-Beckman. The email encouraged students to wear masks and wash their hands often in order to stop the spread.

Still, administrative officials at the 7Cs said COVID-19 prevention measures haven’t been axed entirely. Every campus provides designated isolation housing for students who test positive. As well as that, Pomona requires students to test within 24 hours of showing symptoms, and Scripps requires its students to test immediately.

HMC students are provided with both antigen and PCR testing options, and close contacts of confirmed cases are carefully monitored. Meanwhile, at CMC, students are encouraged to mask and test frequently. 

The 5Cs are not the only sites where COVID-19 is on the rise. In recent weeks, COVID-19 rates have increased across the country. Data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention put COVID-19-related deaths up 10 percent from Aug. 27 to Sept. 2, as compared to the week prior. Omicron variant EG.5, first identified in February 2023 and now the dominant strain worldwide, could be a factor in this uptick, the New York Times reported.

Despite rising cases, COVID-19-based restrictions are continuing to loosen as society gradually returns to its pre-pandemic state. In particular, COVID-19 policies across Claremont have changed since the spring ’23 semester. 

CMC dropped its student vaccine requirement last semester. In August, Scripps and HMC stopped mandating staff vaccination, although both schools still require proof of vaccination for students wishing to enroll.

Additionally, COVID-19 testing was not compulsory during move-in this year, a first since the beginning of the pandemic. 

A new COVID-19 booster, specifically formulated for variants related to EG.5 and already approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, is expected to roll out in the next few days, ABC reported. No 7C school has announced if they plan to require it yet.

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