MCLACOVID

Berkshire Towers, one of the facilities housing students at MCLA. Student density at the dormitories have been cut by more than half, with one student per room due to the pandemic.

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NORTH ADAMS — More than halfway through the fall semester at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, on-campus students have more room than before — no roommates allowed — and many only have to attend one class per week per subject.

On the downside, there is a lot more online work to do, and any interactions have to be in accordance with pandemic measures using masks and social distancing.

It seems to be working, though, according to Gina Puc, vice president of strategy initiatives at MCLA.

As of Oct. 22, three people had tested positive for the virus, according to an online report updated weekly. To date, 2,934 people have been tested, according to the chart. In the seven days before Oct. 22, 414 people were tested with no positive results.

The overall positivity rate is 0.14 percent, the same as North Adams as a whole. Pittsfield’s rate, by comparison, is 0.28 percent.

During the first month of school, two people tested positive for the virus. Tests are conducted once a week for students living on campus, and off-campus students having the testing option, and once a month for faculty and staff. After the first month, 25 percent of the on-campus students are tested each week at random, Puc said.

Students living on campus have no roommates, so they get the whole room to themselves. There is also space set aside for quarantining for anyone who becomes infected.

Athletes active in practices or games are tested weekly.

Since arrivals began Aug. 27, there have been 2,934 tests performed with two positive results and one false positive, Puc noted.

“We’ve been really happy with the results,” she said. “Our percentage rate is better than the state’s, and about the same as North Adams.”

While many classes do meet once a week, others are completely online.

And when Thanksgiving week rolls around, Puc said the students will head home and not return, finishing out the semester remotely.

As for next semester, a Return to Campus Advisory Group is weighing options, which could include a late start, a shorter, or cancelled, spring break, and a possible later ending to the spring semester to avoid some of the colder weather weeks.

Puc said the Broad Institute is processing all the school’s COVID-19 tests, a firm also used by Williams College and 98 other Northeastern colleges.

By contrast, the State University of New York at Oneonta, which did not require negative COVID-19 tests before students could return to campus, had to close down two weeks after opening when more than 700 students became infected. Since then the school has gone to total remote learning, and the president has resigned her post.

Scott Stafford can be reached at sstafford@berkshireeagle.com or

413-629-4517.


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