LEWISTON — Despite hope that the surge of COVID-19 cases at Bates College may be slowing, administrators Thursday extended a lockdown until at least Tuesday.

By then, students will have been required to stay in their rooms almost all the time for 12 days in a bid to stem the spread of a potentially deadly coronavirus. As of noon Thursday, there were 74 active cases among students.

During one of his regular briefings that have become a staple of the pandemic, the director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention director, Dr. Nirav Shah, took note of what he terms “a relatively large outbreak at Bates.”

He said he has spoken with the college president, Clayton Spencer, and other college administrators and recognizes they are “taking this very seriously.”

“I know they’re on top of this,” Shah said.

Joshua G. McIntosh, vice president of campus life, told students Thursday that in addition to the 74 students who have tested positive – who are staying in isolation housing – there are 47 close contacts of those cases who are quarantined in case they are infectious.

He said the Maine CDC and Mayo Clinic consultants advised the college to retain its lockdown until several full testing cycles showed definitively that “a declining trend” exists.

“Accordingly, we will pay close attention to testing from this coming Friday and next Monday,” he said, “with the hope” that the two cases found Thursday will not rise.

McIntosh told students that “unmasked social gatherings are the largest contributors to COVID transmission on campuses across the country and here at Bates. It is critically important that you respect the in-room restrictions and refrain from participating in unmasked or undistanced social gatherings of any size.”

“With the rapid spread that characterizes this outbreak, any violation of the public health protocols — no matter how small — risks our ability to maintain an on-campus experience, our collective goal all year,” he warned.

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