Marc Smithers ’08
As Houghton College began welcoming students back to campus in late January 2021, the country, state and county were all reaching their maximum capacity for COVID-19 care. Allegany County had an alarmingly high seven-day positivity rate while New York State reimposed stricter gathering and indoor dining procedures to address the rising national infection rates due to holiday gatherings.
Despite these challenges, Houghton staff and faculty continued to diligently prepare to have students arrive on campus over the weekend of January 22nd through the 24th. By requiring students to come back to campus with a negative COVID-19 test taken within a few days of their arrival, a number of students were able to isolate at home before returning to Houghton, preventing a possible campus outbreak. After two weeks of very limited in-person contact and two rounds of campus-wide testing of all of our students, the CoronaCare Team was able to identify a handful of asymptomatic cases and isolate them without seeing any noted reports of campus spread of COVID-19 from these cases.
Since in-person classes started on February 8th, there has been no further interruption to campus life with classes carrying on with masking and social distancing; in-person programs and events including a Winter Festival (cut short a few days by some unseasonably warm weather), MLK Week, and Faith and Justice symposium activities; and even the resumption of athletic practices leading up to the opening intercollegiate competitions the first week of March. Though the campus’s practice of the Big Three (masking, social distancing and cleanliness) will never feel fully “normal” as a part of campus life, our students, staff and faculty continue to prioritize these habits for the good of each other and the goal of continuing to share life together amid these unprecedented times.