Spouse of College Employee Tests Positive for COVID-19, But Risk to Campus Remains Low, College Says

(Photo Allyson Frantz/The Gettysburgian)

(Photo Allyson Frantz/The Gettysburgian)

By Benjamin Pontz, Editor-in-Chief

Adams County’s first confirmed case of COVID-19, the disease that stems from the coronavirus, is a college employee’s spouse, President Bob Iuliano said in an email to faculty and staff Thursday afternoon. The college emphasized that there is a “low level of risk” to those with whom the employee whose spouse was infected has been in contact, but, moving forward, the President’s Council has decided that all non-essential employees will work from home.

“The importance of this decision was underscored by news we received earlier today of the first confirmed case in Adams County (affecting an employee’s spouse),” Iuliano said. “As the outbreak expands into our county, it stresses the importance of doing all we can to create the social distancing that will limit its spread. Given the indirect connection to the campus, we are also in touch with public health officials to ensure that we are taking all appropriate steps.”

The news comes the same day that Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said that Pennsylvania’s rapidly escalating number of coronavirus cases is likely the result of community spread, meaning that the state can no longer trace infections to a particular source. Levine said that the emergence of community spread underscores the importance of social distancing.

“Pennsylvanians have a very important job right now: stay calm, stay home and stay safe,” she said in a tweet.

Nevertheless, students continue to descend on Gettysburg from across the country to retrieve their belongings ahead of the college’s deadline of Saturday at 8:00 p.m. to leave campus.

College spokesperson Jamie Yates said that the employee whose spouse tested positive has not been on campus while students and families have been moving out and that the move out process will continue on its original schedule.

“According to CDC guidance, there is a low level of risk to people who have been in contact with this employee and those employees who were in contact have been notified,” Yates said. “[O]therwise community members should continue to follow the CDC guidance to practice social distancing and heed the college’s advice per Bob’s email to work remotely.”

Shortly after 5:00 p.m., Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf ordered all non-life sustaining businesses to close their physical operations by 8:00 p.m. Thursday. According to a list of life-sustaining businesses that could remain open that was attached to the order said that colleges cannot remain open. An urgent email from Dean of Students Julie Ramsey said that, beginning at 8:00 p.m., students would no longer be able to retrieve their belongings as the college complies with the order.

Editor’s Note: This article was updated at 7:25 p.m. with information on Governor Tom Wolf’s latest executive order.

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Author: Benjamin Pontz

Benjamin Pontz '20 serves as editor-in-chief of The Gettysburgian. Previously, he served as a staff writer, event coverage coordinator, news editor, and managing news editor. During his tenure, he has written more than 200 articles on topics ranging from sports to faculty meetings (which, truthfully, are not all that dissimilar). He led the team that won first place in the 2017 Keystone Press Awards for ongoing news coverage of Robert Spencer's visit to Gettysburg College, co-wrote the package of editorials that won first place in the 2018 Keystone Press Awards, and led the coverage that won both first and second place for ongoing news coverage in the 2019 competition. His review of a Sunderman Conservatory Wind Symphony concert, an ensemble in which he formerly performed, also won accolades. He has interned with "Smart Talk" at WITF in Harrisburg and with PA Post. Ben is a political science and public policy double major with a minor in music, he reads up to seven newspapers daily, and his next step is law school. Follow him on Twitter @benpontz.

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