COVID-19 testing update and town hall

Message sent on August 28, 2020

Dean Ramsey informed students of an emerging increase in positive test cases, and forthcoming changes. Dr. Richard Keeling, MD provides additional information on the College’s COVID-19 response.

Message from Dean Julie Ramsey

Dear Gettysburgians,

Earlier today, I sent a letter to students and parents updating them on our testing plans and speaking to the existence of positive cases on campus. In that letter I referred to six confirmed positive cases and a number of other potential positives that were yet to be confirmed. We have now confirmed that we have 13 total positive cases. Please note that we are still awaiting results from the full week of testing and will provide a comprehensive update to the community no later than Monday.

What we are already seeing, however, suggests that we may be at the beginning of a concerning pattern shift. We are calling your attention to this now, and taking other steps outlined below, as a means of reinforcing expectations and responding to the evolving context in ways designed to protect community health and permit us to remain in residence. As our public health expert has underscored below, addressing this pattern now, before it becomes established, is essential.

Because we are concerned about the increased presence of the virus on campus, the College is immediately restricting any and all student gatherings, formal and informal, for the coming weekend, August 28 to August 30. Any student who is found to be responsible for violating these restrictions will be subject to the sanctions outlined in the behavior rubric.

Gatherings will be restricted as follows:

  • Students may continue to gather and spend time with assigned roommates, suitemates, and apartment-mates.
  • Students living on campus and off campus are not permitted to have any guests, including other Gettysburg College students and non-students, in their assigned residence hall space or off-campus house.
  • All events, including College-sponsored events, are canceled for this weekend.
  • There will be a virtual Town Hall meeting on Sunday at 1 p.m. All students will be expected to attend. Faculty, staff, parents, and administrators are also invited to attend. The Town Hall can be accessed via this Zoom link.

In addition, the College will conduct approximately 800-900 surveillance tests next week. This is likely to be a combination of random testing and a focus on segments of the population where students have already tested positive. For example, if there is a student who tests positive from a College house or fraternity where there is a great deal of shared common space, we are likely to focus some additional testing on that residence as a follow-up.

Students will be notified by Residence Life of their testing time in advance of each week. The testing times will not conflict with your class schedules. Students who are tested as part of the ongoing surveillance testing will not be required to quarantine. If you miss your testing time, you must make it up immediately or we will temporarily suspend your access to the College’s network, your card access, and meal plan until you complete your test.

We understand these restrictions are unexpected, but we must move quickly if we are to contain COVID-19 on our campus and remain open for in-person courses as we move ahead with the fall semester.

Below, you will find additional information from Dr. Richard Keeling, M.D., who is serving as the College’s medical advisor regarding COVID-19.

If you have questions, please send them to or call 717-337-8800 (Gettysburg College callers are available from 2:00 - 5 p.m. today).

Dean Ramsey

Letter from Dr. Richard Keeling

Richard Keeling is the Chairman of Keeling & Associates, LLC.

I’m the College’s consultant on health and safety. I want to inspire everyone at Gettysburg to step up their efforts to prevent further transmission of COVID-19 on campus.

One of the most valuable things about Gettysburg College is the excellence of its distinctive residential education in the liberal arts; another is the commitment members of the campus community have made to protect the health, safety, and well-being of students, faculty, and staff by pledging to do everything they can to prevent infection with COVID-19. This fall, the two are closely related; only by doing the second—consistently taking precautions to protect everyone—will the magic of a Gettysburg residential education be possible.

Results of the initial round of baseline testing of all students were great; very few students had positive tests when they arrived at Gettysburg. But that has changed. The second round of tests, just administered and still being analyzed, has already produced different results—there are more positives than in the first round, and more than we hoped to see.

While by no means a crisis, this is a direction and pattern we do NOT want to see continue. We will need to reinforce our purpose and mission for being together and get on the path to discipline ourselves and one another to follow the protocols that we all know contain the spread of the virus.

Maybe the good news about the first round of tests had a paradoxical effect and reduced the level of caution on campus about wearing masks, maintaining physical distancing, and avoiding gatherings of more than just a few people. But it is absolutely essential now to contain the virus and do everything possible to avoid further spread.

There is no room for anything other than very robust compliance with Gettysburg’s risk reduction policies and requirements. Everyone in the College community owes this to everyone else. Out of an abundance of caution, the College must immediately impose stricter restrictions on gatherings, events, and activities. It is now necessary to extend quarantine to more students. Those steps, plus enhanced testing, should help contain the virus — and protect the residential liberal arts education that makes this such an extraordinary place

Richard P. Keeling, MD

August 30 town hall

All members of the campus community are invited and all students are expected to attend:

  • Date: Sunday, August 30, 2020
  • Time: 1:00 p.m.
  • Connection details: Join the meeting (requires campus login)