Bates College students hang out on the football field at the Lewiston college Friday afternoon during an outdoor cookout. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

LEWISTON — Bates College said Friday that one of its students, who had no symptoms, tested positive for COVID-19 and has been moved into isolation housing.

The unidentified student “will receive all necessary care from Bates Health Services. Our primary concern at this time is for the well-being of this student and their family during, what must be, a difficult time,” Josh McIntosh, vice president for campus life and dean of students, posted on the college’s website.

McIntosh said 577 employee tests and 1,168 students tests have been completed this month. All but one came back negative.

Contact tracing is underway for the one positive result, the college said, to determine if anyone else needs to be isolated. Officials anticipate more cases will be found.

“As the volume of testing increases, we may well learn of additional confirmed cases, as has been true in other communities,” McIntosh said.

The announcement of the single positive case followed a change in Bates’ mask policy to require everybody to wear face coverings everywhere on campus, for Bates students and staff as well as the public visiting the campus.

Bates College students hang out in the quad at the Lewiston college Friday afternoon. The school will now require anyone on campus to wear a mask and exercise social distancing at all times whether a student, faculty or guest. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

It had allowed people outside to go without masks unless they were in a congested area, but officials decided that instead of trying to define what that meant, it would be best simply to require masks.

Geoffrey Swift, vice president for finance and administration, told colleagues Thursday that face coverings are now mandated “in all indoor and outdoor areas of campus.”

The change includes areas that members of the community often use to walk dogs, ride bicycles and jog. Until now, they have not needed to wear masks unless they were around other people.

Michael Rocque, a professor, said on Twitter that he hopes people will adhere to the new rule because he loves seeing people from the community on campus.

“It’s not a punishment; it’s meant to help us keep Bates open and protect everyone,” he said.

Swift said the exceptions to the policy include eating, where appropriate distances are maintained, and working alone in private or closed spaces. Students don’t need to wear masks in their own dorm rooms.

Bates College students hang out in the quad at the Lewiston college Friday afternoon. The school will now require anyone on campus to wear a mask and exercise social distancing at all times whether a student, faculty or guest. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

In the wake of a positive test, McIntosh said that “contact tracers are working with this student to identify their close contacts and will notify those individuals. All identified close contacts will follow quarantine protocols. Following an exposure level assessment by providers, testing will be carried out for close contacts as recommended by a health care provider.”

With many tests are not yet complete, many students are still required to remain in their rooms pending results.

The college has a policy in place to isolate any students who test positive until they can safely reintegrate into the college community. Officials consider it likely that at least a few students, who have traveled to Lewiston from around the world, may test positive. Their hope is to keep the disease from spreading.

“With the expectation that some members of our community would likely test positive for COVID-19, we have spent the last several months consulting with leading public health experts to develop plans and protocols to detect COVID-19, mitigate the spread of the virus, and support members of our community,” McIntosh said.

It includes twice weekly testing of students after an initial round of testing for all arriving students, who were required to quarantine pending the results of their first tests.

“Robust testing and contact tracing are critical to achieve this goal of maintaining the health and safety of the Bates community during the pandemic,” McIntosh said.

He said the college would protect the privacy of anyone who does test positive. Close contacts “will only be informed that they may have been exposed to an individual with a positive test, without sharing that person’s identity,” McIntosh said.

Bates has not had a positive case since March, when two college employees got COVID-19. Both recovered.

“By identifying asymptomatic individuals who test positive for COVID-19 and restricting their interactions with others, the college can mitigate the spread of the virus on campus,” he said. “The discovery of this current case underscores the importance and value of this testing program.”

Classes begin next week, the bulk of them in-person but some online-only.

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