After rash of COVID cases, Maharishi International University virus-free

A professor at Maharishi International University in Fairfield leads a hybrid class for both in-person and online students. (Photo courtesy of Rod Eason)
A professor at Maharishi International University in Fairfield leads a hybrid class for both in-person and online students. (Photo courtesy of Rod Eason)

FAIRFIELD — Maharishi International University in Fairfield had a spat of COVID-19 cases earlier this month, but now appears to be free of the virus based on the latest test results all coming back negative.

Rod Eason, vice president of enrollment and student affairs at the university, said there were 21 positive cases in the student body a couple of weeks ago. All of them were students living in the high-rise dormitories on the north end of campus.

Because all of the positive cases were confined to a handful of buildings, everyone in those buildings was put in quarantine. Eason said two students were treated in the hospital for their symptoms but were released the same day.

“Most students had only mild or no symptoms,” Eason said. “And all of those students are now recovered.”

Those students did not eat in the cafeteria during their isolation. In fact, they used a separate entrance from the other students to enter the Argiro Student Center to get their food so they couldn’t mingle with other students. They also had to switch to taking their courses online.

The other students had the option of taking courses either online or in-person, provided the classroom was large enough to accommodate social distancing.

Eason said all of the students who previously tested positive have since tested negative and have been released from quarantine.

“During the latest round of tests last week, we tested 70 students and got zero positive cases,” Eason said. “We’re all quite relieved because we had been anticipating a few positive cases.”

Eason said the university welcomed 56 new international students in late October who came to study in the university’s master’s in computer science program. None of the positive cases were among these students, who all tested negative upon their arrival, isolated for about two weeks, and tested negative again after that.

Eason said all of the positive cases were from students who were already on campus before the arrival of the international students in October.

“We had some delays in processing the tests with this new group, so they had to remain in isolation 17 days,” Eason said. “They were getting pretty antsy by the time we let them loose.”

Eason said getting 56 new students in October is about half what the university would normally get in a typical year. That said, he’s pleased the number is as high as it is.

“Some countries still have their embassies closed,” he said. “Under these circumstances, we have to be pleased. It shows that we are able to pull students from so many countries.”

Eason said the number of students applying to study at MIU is way up from where it was at this same time last year.

“That’s good news there,” he said.

The university continues to require masks on campus. Its cafeteria and dining rooms are open, but with fewer chairs at each table to ensure social distancing. Those who enter the Argiro Student Center can wash their hands in a hand-washing station set up just outside the entrance, and their temperature is taken upon entering the building.

Eason said students were strongly encouraged not to go home for the Thanksgiving break, in accordance with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He said the university is asking students to wait to travel until the longer winter break, from Dec. 19 through Jan. 11.

“It does seem as though the vast majority of our students will stay here [for Thanksgiving],” Eason said. “Probably a few will travel, and we’ll identify those to isolate and test them when they return.”