Nearly four dozen additional students living in one residence hall at Merrimack College have tested positive for the coronavirus, the college's president Christopher Hopey confirmed.
Twenty students had already tested positive on the campus in North Andover, Massachusetts, including 17 who live in the Monican residence hall.
The college says 47 additional Monican students who had been tested as they were leaving campus for quarantine were found positive.
"We have now tested over 3,800 community members in the past 72 hours and the results indicate that this cluster does not extend outside of Monican Hall," Hopey stated in an email to students Thursday. "We are now optimistic with the Monican residents off the campus in isolation or in quarantine, that the campus can stay safely open and fully operational."
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"We know this entire event has been difficult," Hopey's email read. "It has created anxiety and much worry, but we are very proud of the community, its empathy, and its compassion and its understanding towards each other, but most of all its resilience. We are also very proud of our Monican students. You did nothing wrong."
According to the college, all students living on campus who were not already tested twice a week will now be required to do so starting Friday. Commuter students also have the option of increasing the frequency of getting tested.
The college says it is also encouraging residential students to stay on campus to mitigate any risk of outside exposure or spread.
"We want to identify as many positive cases as we possibly can because in identifying then, we can isolate those members of our community in the general population and minimize the risk of spreading COVID-19 to others," Hopey's email read.
Initial cases were identified as a result of "surveillance procedures conducted" at the college as part of its COVID-19 surveillance testing program, school officials said.
All of the dorm's residents were in isolation or quarantine as of 7 p.m. last Tuesday, school officials said. Over 250 of them are doing so off of campus, as is the college's policy, according to officials.
The remaining residents are isolating or quarantining in campus-designated quarantine spaces. Monican Hall was empty as of Tuesday night, and it will be systematically and professionally cleaned and disinfected before anyone moves back in, officials said.
"We want to thank all the Monican students and their parents for their patience and diligence in moving off of the campus this morning by implementing the predetermined departure plans so quickly and acting to protect others," the email read. "We are very sorry this is happening to our Monican Hall students."
As part of the college's student isolation protocols, if students live further than 200 miles away, if they have at-risk relatives at home, or if they have other special circumstances, they will be isolated in an area the college has set aside, according to fall 2020 guidelines on the college's website.
The campus remains open and classes are on schedule.
"We have a choice of whether or not we wanted to come and so the people that made that choice understand what's at risk here," freshman Katie Adams said.
There have been three additional positive cases of the virus at the college, however none were residential students. The positive cases were two commuters and one staff member, school officials said.