Benedictine College and Atchison health officials at odds, putting quarantine order on hold

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ATCHISON, Kan. — A mandatory quarantine at Benedictine College in Atchison is on hold — at least for Thursday night.

The Atchison County Health Department said earlier Thursday that, starting at midnight, students needed to stay inside, but college leaders were quick to push back.

Steve Minnis, president of Benedictine College, said the health order is over-reaching, but health officials said they have to get this virus under control.

The school said it has 39 active cases of COVID-19, and 132 students are in quarantine either on campus, at nearby hotels or back at home.

Two weeks before classes started, Atchison County had only four cases of the virus. Now there are more than 200. The Atchison County health officer said there have been 142 confirmed cases directly related to Benedictine College and student gatherings.

The health department ordered all Benedictine students to quarantine for 14 days, but the college appealed.

“I don’t think this order allows us to do the things that we have promised to do,” he said. “We strengthened our mitigation program on Saturday. We should be allowed to see if those mitigation plans work or not. We won’t know that until later this week or early next week.”

Minnis said they’ve been doing everything they can to prevent the spread, and a quarantine would do more harm than good.

“The order is very broad, damaging. It’s damaging to the city,” Minnis said.

Throughout the day Thursday, health officials and school leaders negotiated but didn’t come to a decision. The conversation will continue Friday.

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