Fifteen people tested positive for COVID-19 at Merrimack College between Oct. 20 and 26, according to the weekly tally on a dashboard posted on the school’s website.

This comes after the student-run newspaper, The Beacon, reported Oct. 22 that 11 students living in O’Brien Hall, which sits in Andover, tested positive.

However, the administration said that information was erroneous when contacted by The Eagle-Tribune on Oct. 23, after The Beacon published its report.

“We did have some students in O’Brien test positive, but nothing like that,” Merrimack College Vice President Jeffrey Doggett said Friday.

Doggett said he didn’t know about The Beacon’s report until contacted by The Eagle-Tribune.

According to the North Andover website, where Merrimack cases are included, the number of positive tests went from 18 to 52 from Oct. 20 to 26, the same window of time as the college dashboard.

Also, within the same period, five students from North Andover High were confirmed to have COVID-19 on Oct. 21. The School District confirmed those cases and selectmen discussed them at a Monday night meeting.

North Andover remains in state’s “red zone,” meaning the community is among those with the highest rate of current positive cases.

The college tests residential students, commuters, faculty, staff and others who come to campus, Doggett said.

Of the 15 people with COVID-19, it is unclear how many of the students live in O’Brien Hall.

Merrimack did not lock down the dorm and did not send information to students last week about a potential outbreak, Doggett said.

“We have asked more students (in O’Brien) to get tested this week and stay in their rooms,” he said Friday.

After The Eagle-Tribune spoke to Doggett, The Beacon’s report was changed to remove the number of positive tests.

“Merrimack College sent The Beacon a statement clarifying the positive cases in O’Brien,” the updated story reads.

The school statement reads, ‘Merrimack College did have a small number of positive cases in O’Brien Hall.’”

It continues, “‘Based on the data there was no reason to take any actions such as closing the residential building or any part of the building. Instead, the college had residents of O’Brien Hall limit their activities on campus by staying in O’Brien Hall and test repeatedly over several days. Based on the results of those tests, there were no more positives and students living in O’Brien Hall were able to resume their residential life on campus.’”

Staff from The Beacon have not responded to a request for comment. Doggett did not immediately return calls for comment.



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