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The Napolitan Student Center at Franklin College

In response to a rise in cases in the 18-30 age group and ahead of students heading home for Thanksgiving, Franklin College — and other colleges across the state — will offer exit testing to students.

“We are offering the tests to help guide your behavior as you return home,” Franklin College President Kerry Prather said in an email to students. “If you test positive, you should isolate at home and take all the CDC-recommended precautions to prevent spreading the virus.”

The tests are being offered Friday, Saturday and Monday and will take place at the athletic training room in Spurlock Center. Students and staff can register here.

The Thursday announcement came after Gov. Eric Holcomb’s weekly virtual COVID-19 press conference, where State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box said she had phone calls with colleges across the state. Box, as a representative for the Indiana State Department of Health, offered to distribute rapid testing cards to institutions to ensure students follow recommendations accordingly upon returning home. More than a dozen colleges and universities had expressed interest in the cards as of Wednesday, she said.

“Behave as if you have COVID, or have been exposed,” Box said. “When you get home, plan to spend those 14 days in quarantine, even in your own home. Wear a mask, even in your own home.”

Johnson County had a 12.8% positivity rate, 142 new cases, and no new deaths as of Wednesday. There have been 5,387 positive COVID-19 cases and 160 deaths in the county since the onset of the pandemic.

“Please, don’t head out to the bars or hang out with all of the friends you haven’t seen for months,” Box said. “You need to keep those social bubbles small.”

An executive order signed by Holcomb Saturday abandoned the state’s original five-step reopening plan. The state will now look at each individual county and add targeted restrictions, with each county being assessed and ranked on a color-coded map that represents the overall seven-day positivity rate and new cases per 100,000 residents.

The majority of counties are now rated “orange,” representing moderate COVID-19 spread. Others are rated as “red” for high levels of new cases.

Johnson County is currently rated orange. Under the new restrictions, this means gatherings of any kind are limited to 50 people.

If Johnson County moves to red, gatherings will be further limited to 25 people and the state will advise against holding any major events, including college-level and professional sports.

Johnson County Public Health Department Preparedness Coordinator Betsy Swearingen said that she does not know what might happen if Johnson County goes red, but confirmed the department is having discussions.

The state reported 59 new deaths and 7,420 newly reported cases Thursday, for a total of 4,889 deaths and 275,503 positive cases. The state’s seven-day positivity rate is at 12.2%. The state has set a record for hospitalization in 14 of the last 16 days.

In response to the increasing state and local numbers, Franklin College President Kerry Prather released a statement Tuesday.

“At this time, our physicians are satisfied that the campus community is operating appropriately within the broader context of the illness,” Prather said. “If that changes, we will be prepared to follow their directions without hesitation to further ensure the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff.”

Prather cited the biweekly testing of Franklin College students, saying that approximately 200 students are tested each cycle and the results are promising.

The number of students tested is not shown in the Franklin College coronavirus dashboard, but the week of Nov. 9 yielded seven positive cases. There have been 68 positive cases reported to Franklin College.

Unlike many local colleges, Franklin College did not alter the school calendar to avoid the risk of bringing students back to campus after the holidays.

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