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Merrimack College coronavirus cluster: 17 students who live in Monican Hall test positive

Boston Herald logo Boston Herald 9/23/2020 Rick Sobey
a close up of a map: Massachusetts cities and towns mapped by risk level for the coronavirus based on two weeks of state Department of Public Health data ending Sept. 12. Courtesy/Massachusetts DPH © Provided by Boston Herald Massachusetts cities and towns mapped by risk level for the coronavirus based on two weeks of state Department of Public Health data ending Sept. 12. Courtesy/Massachusetts DPH

A coronavirus outbreak has emerged at Merrimack College, where 17 students in the same dorm have tested positive for the virus in the last week.

The COVID-19 cluster at Monican Hall has caused the North Andover campus to quarantine more than 250 students who live in the dorm.

“The College considers the number of positive cases in Monican Hall concerning, and is moving aggressively through its protocols of contact tracing, isolation and quarantining to minimize the effect on the campus and community,” college officials wrote to the campus community on Tuesday.

“Our goal is to minimize campus-wide outbreaks by identifying positive cases and quarantining/isolating community members to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and thus preventing an outbreak in one area from spreading across the campus,” they added. “We prepared for this, and we will do everything possible to stop the spread and minimize any impact. We do expect more positives as a result of our aggressive testing of Monican students and will follow our protocols if that happens.”

Merrimack College is the latest Massachusetts school to deal with a coronavirus outbreak after students returned to campus for the fall semester. Boston College saw an uptick in cases during the week after Labor Day, but positive tests in the last week at BC have decreased significantly.

At the North Andover campus, all 266 Monican Hall residents are in isolation or quarantine.

More than 250 of the students are in isolation or quarantine off of the campus, as is the college’s COVID-19 policy. The remaining Monican Hall residents who are quarantining or isolating on campus are in campus-designated quarantine spaces.

“Monican is empty and it will be systematically and professionally cleaned and disinfected before anyone moves back in,” the college officials wrote.

“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 their predetermined departure plans so quickly and acting to protect others,” they added. “We are very sorry this is happening to our Monican Hall students, but we have these policies and procedures in place in order to respond to situations such as this as well as to do our best to protect others.”

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Students, faculty and staff who have been identified as a close contact of a positive case will be contacted by the college’s contact tracing team.

“Members of our community should not be alarmed if they are contacted by the team,” officials wrote. “These highly trained representatives are helping to contact trace and determine any potential spread of the virus.

“We ask that you answer their calls promptly and answer all questions truthfully,” they added. “Students will not be penalized for being truthful in their answers. We are trying to identify the sources and mitigate the impacts of potential spread, and your truthfulness will help solve the problem quickly so everyone can return to campus and continue their studies.”

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