While it was widely reported last week that 65 people at Merrimack College recently tested positive for the coronavirus, the school has actually been dealing with a larger problem.

The school's own website reports that 100 people have been positive since testing began Aug. 13.

North Andover Town Manager Melissa Rodrigues told The Eagle-Tribune in a Sunday report the college had reported 93 cases going back to Sept. 13.

An Oct. 1 statement from the town says 111 of the 538 positive tests in North Andover have been from the college.

On Tuesday afternoon the college was expected to release its most current numbers. They had not been posted as of 3:30 p.m.

The higher numbers have thrust North Andover into the red zone on the state's COVID-19 Community Data Map, meaning the town is restricted in what can and can't reopen. 

Merrimack College Vice President Jeffrey Doggett, who has served as a spokesman for the school around the issue of COVID-19, did not return a phone call or email seeking comment and clarification about the reasons for the higher number.

He said in a story last week in the Tribune that 47 of the school's 65 cases stemmed from an outbreak at Monican Hall, a dormitory on campus that sits in Andover. Most people in that dorm — about 250 of the 266 residents — were sent home to quarantine. If they were ill or couldn't go home, they were placed in isolation or quarantine on campus.

The dorm was shut down and is in the process of being cleaned. Students are expected to start returning to the dorm next week, according to an Oct. 2 statement on the college's website.

Students on and off campus have been doing remote learning, but in-class instruction is expected to restart Wednesday.

"New positive cases are in significant decline, both in overall numbers and amongst residential students," according to a statement signed by Doggett, President Christopher Hopey, and interim provost Sean Condon.

"These recent results support our conviction that our overall approach to the last 10 days was the correct course of action," the statement continues. "These results are encouraging, and the College is confident in its decision to move back to face-to-face instruction."

Doggett told the Tribune last week that Monican Hall was the school's only outbreak and that other positive tests have come from other sources not connected to Monican.

He noted that even though Monican is geographically located in Andover, because the school has a North Andover address and because former North Andover Town Manager Andrew Maylor now works at the college, "the decision was made to work with North Andover."


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