BRUNSWICK — Bowdoin College officials announced Wednesday that all college playing fields will close at sundown following a Friday night gathering that they say “compromised the college’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols.” 

Following a “thorough investigation, school officials determined that while the majority of students who gathered on the athletic fields adjacent to Farley Field House on Friday were doing so safely, a “small” but undisclosed number of students on the field “engaged in behavior that put the health and safety of the Bowdoin community at risk.”

Doug Cook, college spokesperson, said the college is addressing the issue with the students involved. He was not able to confirm the size of the gathering. 

In a letter to the campus community, Mike Ranen, COVID-19 resource coordinator, clarified that “there is no evidence of large parties on the fields or behavior on a large scale that possessed a threat to the health and safety of the college or local communities.” 

A quiet campus at Bowdoin College in late June. Shawn Patrick Oullette / Portland Press Herald

Despite this, the experience “convinced us that we have to do more to minimize the conditions that might encourage inappropriate gatherings and behavior,” leading to the decision to close the fields at night, Ranen said. 

The college is taking the matter seriously, he added, but will not discuss matters of student conduct publicly. 

The college reported its first case of coronavirus Aug. 29 when an out-of-state student received a positive test result while driving to campus for the start of the academic year, college officials said. The second positive case came the following Wednesday, the first day of classes, and the third just two days later on Friday, Sept. 4.

None of the cases are connected to each other and the first student has since been cleared by campus health officials. 

Four students known to have been in close contact (within six feet for more than 15 minutes) with students who have tested positive have been placed in a 14-day quarantine. Throughout the next week, all students will continue to be tested three times per week, according to officials. 

Last week, the college moved into “orange” status “out of an abundance of caution,” with the intent that it would remain in effect until Tuesday. Wednesday, the designation was still in place, according to the school’s website.  

The college has three status levels, yellow, orange and red, with red being the most restrictive and yellow being the least.

In orange, students are prohibited from leaving campus for personal reasons and all meals are to-go only. Masks are required in the residence halls, common areas are closed and students are prohibited from visiting other residence halls. All classes will be outside in tents or online. Student support services are fully remote.

Bowdoin welcomed back roughly 700 students for the fall semester, including first-year students, some transfer students, residential life student workers, some international students, seniors working on honors projects that require campus resources and students “for whom working at home presents great challenges,” Cook said previously.

All other students are learning remotely for the fall semester and, with the exception of freshman writing seminars, classes are conducted online.

 Students are tested three times per week during the first two weeks on campus and then twice weekly until they leave campus the week before Thanksgiving. The semester will finish remotely

Bowdoin College is partnering with the Broad Institute in Massachusetts for a testing plan specifically designed for higher education. Matt Orlando, Bowdoin’s senior vice president for finance and administration and treasurer, said in an earlier interview that the college ordered more than 35,000 tests for the 11-week period. Testing and contact tracing for the fall is expected to cost roughly $3 million.

Students will conduct the self-administered lower nasal swabs under the supervision of a trained staff member or health care professional in the college’s testing facility at the Morrell Gymnasium. Tests are sent back to the lab for testing and results are available in about 24 hours, and data is posted on Bowdoin’s COVID dashboard the following morning.

Students living off-campus and staff not expected to regularly interact with students will be tested once weekly through a partnership with Mid Coast Hospital and NordX. 

So far, Bowdoin has conducted 3,416 student tests and 2,702 staff and faculty tests, resulting in the two student positive test results. The first reported case was detected through a separate testing program.   

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