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Livingstone College reports only two student cases of COVID-19 this semester

SALISBURY — Livingstone College has reported only two positive cases of COVID-19 among its completely vaccinated student population.

The college is one of a handful of private institutions in the state that have mandated universal COVID-19 vaccination for students, faculty and staff on its campus starting this semester.

Livingstone started bringing students back to campus in August and began classes in September. In addition to the vaccine policy, it has kept other rules from the previous year of classes: masks outdoors, ramped-up cleaning processes and testing everyone on campus every two weeks.

The universal testing means the college catches asymptomatic cases less-stringent testing procedures may miss.

The college recorded 12 positive staff cases since it started tracking this semester’s numbers in August as well. Livingstone Chief Operating Officer Anthony Davis told the Post all the cases are breakthroughs because everyone on campus is vaccinated. Breakthrough cases occur when someone contracts COVID-19 despite being fully vaccinated.

“That doesn’t surprise me because when they leave our bubble, they go into the community and communities where the delta variant is the dominant strain,” Davis said, noting there are nearly 700 students who live on campus.

The delta variant is primarily marked by its high replication rate, making it more infectious than previous variants.

The college also just wrapped up its homecoming activities, which took place last week. To attend any of the events, the college required anyone entering campus to provide a negative COVID-19 test taken within the previous 72 hours. The college offered free testing to anyone planning to attend.

The college canceled its homecoming parade, but later moved ahead with a procession of the royal court, student government association, cheerleaders and band prior to the homecoming game on Saturday.

At the time, Livingstone President Jimmy Jenkins said the college realized people were looking forward to homecoming because the festivities were canceled in 2020.

Davis said the Livingstone’s control procedures have been a success so far, but the college will be testing this week to see where its numbers land after homecoming.

“We believe that we would not have been this successful had we not made it a mandate,” Davis said.

The college is testing 1,000-1,100 people every other week as part of its universal program through partner organization Ottendorf Laboratories, which the college holds a majority stake in, and is providing testing through Ottendorf to areas throughout the state.

The college has not had conversations about requiring booster shots if they are approved for the adult population across the board. Davis said he does not believe there will be much vaccine hesitancy for getting boosters among people who have already been fully vaccinated.

“Right now we want to maintain our position that the safest way to execute our mission in this current environment is to require that everyone be vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus and leverage the other mitigating strategies,” Davis said.

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