Lake Forest College COVID-19 outbreak fueled by dorm gatherings involving men's hockey team, school president says

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (WLS) -- Lake Forest College has confirmed at least a dozen students are positive for COVID-19, and dozens more students are now in quarantine. It comes as the students returned to campus after remote learning last semester.

School administrators had put together a detailed plan with strict protocols for a safe return of in-person learning. But less than a week into the new semester, the rest of the school year is in jeopardy.

School officials said it happened at one of the dormitories, with social gatherings in multiple rooms creating a potential superspreader event.

In a letter on the Lake Forest College website, the school's president said: "More than one student apparently believed that testing negative last Friday ... meant it was safe to gather with others on Saturday."

That resulted in at least 12 students testing positive for COVID-19. Another 28 are in quarantine, including "a majority of the members of our men's hockey team," according to the letter.

After all-remote instruction last fall, Lake Forest College students returned to campus this week to a regular testing protocol as seen in a YouTube video produced by the college.

The school installed enhanced ventilation, assembled a team of more than two dozen contact tracers, and administrators laid out strict masking and social distancing rules in a 20-page memo.

Those rules included no indoor social gatherings permitted during the first few weeks of the semester, and no leaving dorm rooms, except for class, meals, and other essential needs.

The school's president issued a dire warning in his letter: "If many more students test positive... the rest of this semester could be jeopardized."

In a statement to ABC 7, the school's president said the 12 students who tested positive have mild symptoms, are in the care of the college's health center, and that testing and contact tracing will continue throughout the semester.

Full statement from Lake Forest College President Stephen Schutt:
Twelve Lake Forest College students tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday and Tuesday. They represent less than one percent of the student population the College is testing weekly or more frequently. All twelve went immediately into isolation under the care and guidance of the College's health center, and all are experiencing only mild symptoms. Contact tracing identified 28 other students who had recent contact with the initial 12, and all of those 28 are now in quarantine as a precautionary measure. The College takes the coronavirus very seriously, and our robust testing and contact tracing program will continue throughout the spring semester.
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