College communication

Nadra Williams, a fourth-year student at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, was not happy with the college’s communication about COVID cases, or lack thereof.

Four people at St. Mary’s College of Maryland tested positive for the coronavirus as of Monday morning.

All four people were considered to be nonactive cases, according to a new COVID-19 dashboard on the college’s website. It defined nonactive cases as people who have passed the two-week isolation period and have determined to be recovered.

The dashboard showed five people on campus who are in quarantine waiting for test results or waiting for development of symptoms. It also showed 37 people were administered a coronavirus test by college staff.

The dashboard comes after 35 people were at an off-campus party during the weekend of Aug. 15, just prior to classes beginning for the fall semester. College staff said the party was a violation and all students were banned from campus until they produced a negative COVID-19 test result.

“I believe everyone has been tested or they will be tested before they’re allowed to return,” Mike Bruckler, spokesperson for the college, said last week.

Bruckler said the dashboard was created under the direction of President Tuajuanda Jordan. However, Jordan declined an interview request from Southern Maryland News.

The dashboard’s nonactive cases category shows what could be considered the number of cumulative cases on campus. However, that number only represents people who have recovered from the virus, and unlike other government coronavirus dashboards, does not specifically report total cases.

Nadra Williams, a fourth-year student, was not happy with the college’s communication about COVID-19 cases, or lack thereof. Before the dashboard was created, she sent a letter to school officials last month.

“There is no reason that I, as well as many other students, should have learned about two positive cases on campus through Twitter,” the 20-year-old said in her letter.

She wrote that she waited five days for an email from the college acknowledging the cases, but did not receive one.

A New York Times college and university COVID-19 tracker showed St. Mary’s College had three cases in late August.

Bruckler said he told the Times, “Over the summer we had three members of the St. Mary’s College community report they were positive for COVID-19. None had serious symptoms and they were isolated for the time required by their health care providers and the local health department.”

The spokesperson said reporting the cases is a balancing act between keeping the community informed and keeping the privacy of those who tested positive.

“You’re not being any type of transparent with us and that’s not OK,” Williams said in an interview.

Williams said a student had a sign posted on her dorm room door that said she tested positive for the virus. But she was told to take the sign down by college employees. It was something Bruckler said he would have to look into.

The Baltimore resident said she is “weary and afraid” of moving back on campus.

“It’s not in the cards for me to get sick,” Williams said.

Williams said she met with Kelsey Bush, the interim chief diversity officer, and Shana Meyer, the interim vice president of student affairs, last week to talk about the virus on campus and its reporting. She said it went better than expected because the two were understanding and willing to listen.

Students were asked to produce a negative test result before moving in this summer. All students were given their own PPE kits with masks, hand sanitizers and thermometers, according to the college. The college community is expected to wear face coverings while on campus.

“Our goal is to institute weekly, situational testing throughout the semester as a means to monitor viral spread and potentially mitigate widespread infection,” the college’s website states.

If a student has COVID-19 symptoms they must arrange a test with the wellness center or county health department. Residential students awaiting results must self-isolate in campus housing. Commuter students are asked to stay home pending their results.

Twitter: @KristenSoMdNews

Twitter: @KristenSoMdNews