First Campus-based COVID-19 Case

CLARIFICATION: March 21, 2020
Regarding the risk of transmission of asymptomatic people, the CDC guidelines state that “People are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest). Some spread might be possible before people show symptoms; there have been reports of this occurring with this new coronavirus, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.” Read the full details.

Dear Williams students, faculty, staff and families,

Earlier today the college was informed that a member of our community who is not currently on campus or living locally has tested positive for COVID-19. The individual has been self-isolating at home in another state for almost a week, and they have been and remain asymptomatic. This is the first confirmed case within the Williams community.

We are notifying you all because this person was on campus from Saturday, March 14, through Sunday, March 15, and interacted with people, especially students, during that time. Deb Flynn, director of medical services at Student Health Services, immediately conferred with our public health liaisons, who confirmed that CDC guidelines regard the risk of contagion as very low when an individual is asymptomatic. They do not recommend testing, contact tracing or self-isolation in these kinds of cases. However, social distancing is a must in the wake of such interactions, as it already is for our community and worldwide.

Out of an abundance of caution, we are notifying all of you and using this moment to remind everyone of the need to maintain such distancing at all times, and to practice thorough hygiene. The guidelines for hygiene are described on the COVID-19 website.

Please take particular care to understand COVID-19 symptoms. Williams’ Student Health Services has provided each resident student with four disposable thermometers. If you live on campus and develop a fever or cough, please immediately call the Health Center at 413-597-2206. After hours, contact the physician on call. Faculty, staff and students not living on campus should call their own healthcare providers directly, right away, if they develop symptoms.

The college is working with the person who was diagnosed to confirm the list of people they were in contact with. The person has reached out to many of these people already, and we will get in touch directly with any others whom we know or believe to have been in close contact.

Williams’ COVID-19 website provides answers to frequently asked questions about the virus for students and for faculty and staff. You can also use the comment portal to ask more general questions. If you have an immediate need that is not medical in nature, please call the college hotline at 413.597.2111, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. EST. Outside of those hours, please leave a voice message, and your call will be returned as soon as possible.

Williams has been preparing for the likelihood that this rapidly spreading virus would eventually affect our community, and we are now taking measures in accordance with our plan and with expert public health advice. Even so, we recognize that this news will cause concern. We assure you that we are taking the necessary steps, and we thank you all for doing your part by keeping to a strict regimen of social distancing, limited interaction and careful hygiene.

We will inform you of any further developments with this case that might impact the campus as a whole.


Deb Flynn, Medical Director, Student Health Services

Marlene Sandstrom, Dean of the College

Steve Klass, Vice President for Campus Life