The Wash
Georgetown University reported 24 new cases of coronavirus last week, the highest since August. (Maya Smith/The Wash)

Georgetown University coronavirus cases rise, mirroring district’s numbers

Student body president says university ‘did the best they could’ with pandemic response.

Nearly 150 Georgetown University students or faculty members have tested positive for the coronavirus since the beginning of the fall semester.

The weekly positive test count has been increasing since October 11, with 24 new cases last week and 22 the previous week.

Nicolo Ferretti, Georgetown student body president, said the number of cases does not alarm him. He said the university “did the best they could given the circumstances” in its coronavirus response plan for the fall semester.

“I mean, given all of the unknowns at the beginning of the semester, I think Georgetown did okay,” Ferretti said.

Ferretti, a senior studying science, technology, and international affairs, applauded the school’s testing protocol. Students who live on campus or visit campus more than twice a week must be tested two times a week. All other students who visit campus occasionally or live near the campus are required to be tested once a week.

However, Ferretti said from the onset, the university did a “poor job” communicating, failing to be transparent during the planning process for the fall semester.

Looking ahead

The university announced its plans for the spring Monday, keeping this semester’s virtual structure in place and more in-person opportunities.

Currently, 500 students are living on campus. University president John DeGioia, who detailed the plan in a letter to the campus community, said the university would invite 500 additional seniors back to campus in the spring. All classes will be offered virtually with more options for hybrid courses for seniors.

“I know that this is not the message that many in our community hoped to hear when looking ahead to next semester,” DeGioia said in the letter. “We understand the disappointment in not being able to fully return to campus and how eager our community is to be together in person.”

DeGioia also noted that the plans could change as officials track the virus’s trajectory during the winter months.

“We are a community of 26,000 people,” DeGioia wrote. “The virus impacts all of us. The actions we take have an impact on those around us. We share these plans with you at a very uncertain and challenging time. As we enter the winter months–widely anticipated as the most dangerous time for the pandemic – we face uncontrolled spread of COVID-19 in nearly all states.”

In DC, there have been 19,064 positive cases of coronavirus since March, resulting in 660 deaths. Of the positive cases, 25 percent were in individuals ages 19 to 30, according to the DC Health Department.

The number of positive tests has been steadily increasing since Nov. 1. The district is currently in Phase Two of its reopening plan.

Ferretti said the university’s spring plan is what he expected. But he said he is nervous about 500 students returning to campus: “It could lead to a serious public health emergency.”

Based on a survey given by the student government, Ferretti said he believes most students understand the severity of the virus and are taking precautions.

But Ferretti said he’d heard reports of students living near campus throwing large gatherings.

“I’ve heard horror stories of 100-person parties,” Ferretti said. “Students who live next to less responsible students are suddenly surrounded by an influx of cases.”

It’s hard to see that behavior and not be disappointed in his peers, he said. “The situation we’re in really necessitates everyone take responsible steps.”

Georgetown officials did not respond to The Wash’s request for additional comment.

Maya Smith

Maya Smith is a journalist interested in finding answers to questions about race, mental health, and equity. She covers Georgetown for The Wash.

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