As of Dec. 7 a total of 42 mumps cases have been confirmed on campus, according to the Health Center. Among those infected are one staff member, several members of the swim teams and a handful of other individual student-athletes.
The campus has been combatting this pandemic since Oct. 7. Per campus protocol, those infected must go through a required period of isolation and the 20 students on campus who were not vaccinated against the disease have been sent home for the remainder of the semester.
Although the Health Center has not sent out an email update since Nov. 17 regarding the spread of the disease, information is available on the college’s main web page and the current number of mumps cases is updated as the disease spreads, said Dr. Jack Ordway, director of Student Health Services.
“We decided having the information available in real time on the main web page would be the best way to communicate,” he said. “We didn’t want to cause a sensory overload by sending out repeated campus updates which were very similar.”
A student-athlete who was diagnosed with the disease said that her symptoms included pain in her cheeks and nausea. She was in the peak of these symptoms over Thanksgiving break which coincided with the mandatory time of isolation.
Although individuals on other sports teams have contracted the disease, the most impacted team in the athletic department is the swim team, and they have recently been able to return to the water, said Athletic Director Stuart Robinson.
“Since mid-October, just under 20 percent of their team had been affected by the mumps,” he said. “We had to cancel practices, we had to cancel meets and they didn’t get to be a team for about six weeks.”
Robinson added that he commends the swim teams for the behavior and the way they conducted themselves throughout these past weeks.
“It would have been really easy to get frustrated and be negative or to feel put out upon and they didn’t do that,” he said. “They recognized the seriousness of what was happening and although they got itchy to want to compete and want to participate, they understood it and they respected the decisions of the campus and my hat goes off to them because it’s not an easy thing to do to say you can’t do something that you love.”
The men’s volleyball team also lost their non-traditional competition day due to one of their teammates being infected with mumps, but no other team has been affected to the breadth of the swim team.
When the outbreak began, the associate athletic director and assistant to the director held meetings with each of the sports teams to educate them about the disease and ways of prevention. As the number of cases continued to increase, the coaches continued to meet with their respective teams to talk with them more about what would be done to protect themselves and the seriousness of the disease.
Robinson said that the student-athletes are “a very close group” and that when they do a lot of things together, they’re used to sharing things such as utensils, food or drinks. He added that the department is optimistic that a time apart over intercession will be enough to eradicate the disease.
“We are all hoping that intercession brings the end of this,” Robinson said. “The campus believes that if everybody goes home for the break and if there is somebody that does get sick, they’re basically in isolation and that will help this process to go a lot sooner and a lot quicker, so that hopefully intercession does allow this disease to finally leave.”
Ordway also hopes that intercession will end the outbreak but there are additional cases around the community, including a probable case at New Paltz High School, according to the Ulster County Health Department.
“There are cases all around in the community and at other colleges, so new cases may come from sources off campus,” Ordway said. “If cases come from off campus sources from contacts students have at home then the outbreak will continue.”