By PAT EATON-ROBB Associated Press
NEW BRITAIN, Conn. (AP) — The University of Connecticut reported a new cluster of COVID-19 cases Wednesday, hours after the leaders of the state’s public and private universities declared their schools ready to reopen following months of preparations to make them as safe as possible during the coronavirus pandemic.
The school reported it discovered 12 cases in Garrigus Suites after testing all of the approximately 270 students who live in that residence hall. The infected students have been moved into isolation, the school said.
UConn, which has reported 38 cases since students arrived back on campus this month, said those living in the dorm will be tested again within the next few days, and are being given instructions on what they must do in order to help ensure they remain healthy and the virus does not spread any further.
The new cases bring the school’s infection rate to 0.76%, which health officials still classify as very low. UConn starts classes Monday.
The news came after officials from UConn, the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system and the Connecticut Conference of Independent Colleges appeared with Gov. Ned Lamont at Central Connecticut State University to tout their plans for in-person, remote, and hybrid learning this fall.
The news conference came on the first day of in-person classes for three of the four schools in the state university system.
Western Connecticut State University has moved all its classes online and suspended moving students back onto campus for at least two weeks because of a recent COVID-19 outbreak in Danbury, which has seen more than 200 cases in the past two weeks and where the school is located.
“We are ready to serve all our students,” said Mark Ojakian, the president of the Connecticut State Colleges Universities system.
All Connecticut colleges have adopted strict guidelines for allowing students back on campus. Those include requiring students coming from states with high infection rates to have a negative test result before being allowed on campus. They must get another test when they arrive and quarantine for two weeks on campus before getting a third test.
Ojakian says he’s confident that students can and will follow social distancing guidelines and the requirement to wear masks. He pointed to UConn’s decision to evict a dozen students from campus housing after a party in a dorm room as an example of how serious the schools are taking those rules.
UConn President Thomas Katsouleas said officials haven’t seen any gatherings larger than six people since that incident.
Lamont said the state will be monitoring the reopenings closely and is prepared to shut schools down again, should the infection rates begin to spike.
“Look, I don’t want to be ‘Governor Killjoy’ and that was not my nickname when I was in college,” Lamont said. “But I also know that we’re going to have to work hard to keep our colleges open safely.”