Colby College students in Waterville walk near Cotter Union, in background, after the announcement Thursday, March 12, that students need to start moving off campus by this weekend and resume classes remotely later this month through online courses, in response to the spread of coronavirus. Morning Sentinel photo by Rich Abrahamson Buy this Photo

WATERVILLE — A staff member in Colby College’s athletic department has tested positive for coronavirus, news that came a week after the college announced students would need to leave campus in the coming days.

The college’s dean announced Colby’s first positive case Thursday night in a notice to the community. The person has been isolated at home and was reporting “relatively mild symptoms,” Karlene Burrell-McRae, dean of the college, wrote to students, faculty and staff. “This is the first positive test result in the Colby community.”

The staff member has followed the direction of Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention in reaching out to those with whom there was recent contact, Burrell-McRae wrote, and those people have been asked to self-quarantine.

Colby’s announcement came as the Maine CDC on Thursday reported 52 confirmed cases statewide, including three in Kennebec County.

Last week, Colby asked students to leave campus by this past Sunday and announced a plan to launch remote courses March 30. As of Thursday night, there were “fewer than 100 students” still on campus, the college said in a statement. That number will continue to decline, depending on travel availability, according to Colby officials.

Bates College in Lewiston also reported a confirmed case of coronavirus Thursday.

In her notice to the Colby community, Burrell-McRae asked that people seek medical attention by first calling their primary care physician if they experience fever or respiratory symptoms, and that all community members tested should report the results to the college.

“We understand that having a positive case within our community could add to stress and anxiety,” Burrell-McRae wrote. “Class deans in the Dean of Studies Office continue to be available to all students. Students on campus can access mental health support through Counseling Services, and Human Resources offers resources for employees. We encourage you to use those services as needed.

These are trying times, and yet amidst the challenges, we are inspired by the fortitude of our remarkable community.”

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