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47 more Merrimack College students have COVID-19; twice weekly testing required

Nearly 50 additional students from a single residence hall at Merrimack College in North Andover have tested positive for COVID-19, but the outbreak appears to be limited to residents from that dorm, school administrators said Thursday.

Nonetheless, all on-campus students will now be required to take two coronavirus tests each week, and commuter students, faculty, and staff members are encouraged to get tested twice a week, according to a statement from the college’s president, Christopher E. Hopey, and executive vice president, Jeffrey Doggett.

Merrimack administrators announced Tuesday that all 266 residents of the Monican Centre were required to quarantine for two weeks after 17 students there tested positive. Officials said the building would be closed and sanitized.

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Since then, another 47 Monican residents have tested positive, Hopey and Doggett said.

After testing more than 3,800 community members this week, Merrimack officials found that “the results indicate that this cluster does not extend outside of Monican Hall,” they said. “We are now optimistic with the Monican residents off the campus in isolation or in quarantine, that the campus can stay safely open and fully operational.”

Hopey and Doggett encouraged students who live in dorms to remain on campus as much as possible.

“Leaving campus takes on certain risks, and students who leave campus and return to their residences are at greater risk to contract and transmit COVID-19,” they said. “Students who must work or go home to help out family are free to do so, but should follow strict COVID-19 guidelines of wearing face coverings and social distancing protocols to minimize the risk. Students who want to leave campus for social reasons are strongly discouraged from doing so.”

They instructed students to wear face coverings, employ social distancing measures, practice good hygiene, and avoid large gatherings. They also reminded students that no outside guests are allowed in residential areas.

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“We know this entire event has been difficult,” Hopey and Doggett said. “It has created anxiety and much worry, but we are very proud of the community, its empathy, and its compassion and its understanding towards each other, but most of all its resilience. We are also very proud of our Monican students. You did nothing wrong. We are sorry that you experienced this and we are looking forward to your return in a few short weeks.”

Correction: Due to an incorrect information provided by Merrimack College, an earlier version of this story misspelled the name of Executive Vice President Jeffrey Doggett.


Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox.