‘Super-spreader’ event led to N.J. college’s COVID-19 outbreak, president says

About 125 COVID-19 cases at Monmouth University have been traced to an off-campus “super-spreader event” that shut down in-person classes and canceled athletics, according to campus officials.

Monmouth had reported a total of 39 confirmed cases as of Sept. 25. Since then, the number has ballooned to 291 cases, including 166 people who tested positive and are still in isolation, president Patrick Leahy wrote Friday in a letter to students.

In addition to the confirmed cases, 206 students at the private college were identified through contract tracing as being at high risk for contracting the virus. They are required to quarantine as a precaution, Leahy wrote.

About 125 of the cases were traced to a gathering about two weeks ago at a private residence, said Tara Peters, the university’s associate vice president for communications. Not all of those people attended the gathering, but they eventually came into contact with someone who did, she said.

Monmouth’s struggle to contain the virus’ spread underscores the logistical challenges that colleges face in relying on students to follow safety protocols when they’re not on campus.

“Moving forward, we will need 100% cooperation from our campus community in order to resume our fall semester as planned,” Leahy wrote.

Monmouth opened the semester with the majority of its courses online, but allowed indoor dining on campus, where students also had access to the gymnasium and pool. It temporarily shut down those facilities at the end of September and announced it would postpone sporting events through at least Wednesday. All courses were shifted online through Oct. 14.

The university also began offering free virus testing for all students and staff with no appointments needed.

Leahy hopes to make a decision soon on whether to reopen facilities and resume athletics and club activities, he wrote.

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Adam Clark may be reached at [email protected]

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