As COVID-19 cases reach record levels in the U.S., Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management yesterday (Oct. 31) confirmed another five positive diagnoses of the virus among its MBA students in the past week. That brings the total number of known cases to 17 after the school shifted all MBA classes online after an off-campus gathering that forced some 50 students into a quarantine.
At first, it was four MBA students. Then, last week, it doubled to eight new cases. In the past seven days, Kellogg confirmed there were five more positive cases. In the past three weeks, the positivity rate for Kellogg’s 1,033 full-time MBA students remains low at 1.6%. A spokesperson for Kellogg confirmed that the school will return to hybrid classes this Monday, Nov. 2.
The university’s COVID dashboard, which does not break out numbers by school, is now reporting a new record number of coronavirus cases. Northwestern reported 53 positive cases from Oct. 22 to Oct. 28, in its new COVID update as of 1 p.m. Friday (see chart below). The university’s overall positivity rate for the week is still low: 1.07%. But the 53 new cases reflect a 36% increase from the week-earlier 39 cases and a 308% increase from two weeks ago when there were only 13 confirmed cases. Among the 53 new cases were 42 students, mostly undergraduates, 10 staffer members, and six faculty.
THREE TOP B-SCHOOLS HAVE HAD TO GO ONLINE AFTER OFF-CAMPUS GATHERINGS
It’s possible, moreover, that even the larger university number is an undercount. That’s because the dashboard only includes confirmed case counts based on Northwestern Medicine testing data and fails to include self-reported cases.
The Kellogg cases came to light only days after the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business moved all its MBA classes online for two weeks after an off-campus gathering immediately resulted in five positive cases among MBA students with more than 100 asked to quarantine. Booth has been less forthcoming about the extent of the crisis than Kellogg. The University of Chicago’s COVID dashboard reported that it had 45 new positive cases in the past week, up from 37 a week earlier and 36 two weeks ago.
The Kellogg outbreak occurred after an off-campus gathering over the Oct. 10-11 weekend. By Friday, Oct. 16th, at least four MBA students tested positive for COVID-19. After contact tracing those students, the university discovered that more than 50 Kellogg students were linked to the social gathering, according to an email from Kellogg Dean Francesca Cornelli.
“Your health and safety are our highest priorities, which is why we are emailing you now, on a Friday evening, after the extent of the situation became clear through the contact tracing efforts this afternoon,” wrote Cornelli. “Since yesterday, four additional Kellogg students have tested positive for COVID-19. Some of those individuals have been traced to the social gatherings referenced above. We are actively working to ensure all community members who were exposed to the virus are notified and tested, but as of this writing, some students have yet to receive tests, and others are awaiting results.”
‘WE ARE DISAPPOINTED THAT WE HAD TO MAKE THIS DECISION’
In addition to the temporary shutdown of in-person classes, Kellogg also issued a “stay-at-home directive” for all of the school’s full-time MBA students. “All Kellogg Full-Time MBA students in the Chicagoland area must adhere to a two-week stay-at-home directive from Friday, October 16 at 10:00 p.m. through Friday, October 30,” according to the school.
“We expect you to avoid all but essential activities, such as going to the grocery store or doctor, or individual outdoor exercise,” wrote the dean. “This also means no formal or informal social gatherings of any kind are permitted. Any violation of this directive can be grounds for disciplinary action, which could include suspension. Similarly, any students who have been identified through contact tracing will be self-quarantining during this time.”
Cornelli expressed disappointment in having to make the decision to move classes online, a departure from the hybrid format Kellogg has been practicing this fall. “We are disappointed that we had to make this decision,” adds Dean Cornelli. “As you know, our objective was always to stay hybrid in our Full-Time MBA program until the Thanksgiving holiday. This is a reminder of how important individual actions are in allowing us to achieve our goals and how quickly this virus can spread. Our ability to return to the hybrid format will depend on many factors, including case and quarantine levels and University and City of Evanston guidelines, as well as individual behavioral actions to help limit spread in our community.”