Surge in Gloucester County COVID-19 cases linked to Rowan University, health officials say

GLASSBORO, New Jersey (WPVI) -- The Gloucester County Health Department says a spike in COVID-19 cases over the last 7 days can be traced to Rowan University.

Since the semester started just over three weeks ago, there have been 279 COVID-19 cases in total at the university - on and off-campus, according to data released by the university.

Currently, 43 students are living in Triad Hall, a dorm for on-campus students who have tested positive for the virus. All meals are delivered and a crew sanitizes common areas twice a day.

Roommates Makenzie Rey and Molly Ryan, both sophomores from Woodstown, say they've had mild symptoms.

"It's been nice so far. The food is pretty good and the staff is really sweet," said Rey.

The pair said they know exactly how they contracted COVID-19, and don't regret coming to campus.

"One of our friends didn't realize she had it and she had come over to our apartment to hang out with us. Then a couple of days after that she found out she was positive so, then that's when we decided to get tested," said Ryan.

Both students are still taking classes online. Only 17% of classes are being held in person, and those involve mainly labs or clinical settings.

Normally, 7,000 students would live on campus, but this semester there are only 4,100, allowing for less room sharing. All students are asked to fill out an online health screening each day and signs on campus remind students to "mask up."

Rowan held a virtual town hall on Wednesday night to answer questions from the community.

"We feel that we have all the precautions in place to keep and educate our students but we haven't found a situation through our contact tracing that shows that because there's a student infected here they've caused other infections in the community," said Joe Cardona, the vice president for university relations.

Rowan officials say they update their online dashboard with new numbers every day and they believe students are spreading the virus through social engagement, not through large parties - but in smaller gatherings.

So far, officials say they feel very comfortable with the current number of cases, and continue to ask students to be safe.
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