COOP Dining Closes for Two Days After Staff Member Tests Positive for COVID-19

Elli Ament, Contributing Writer

Colgate University closed dining services at the COOP on April 3 and 4 after a dining services staff member tested positive for COVID-19. Students were notified through an Instagram post on April 3 informing them of the closure for that day. Later posts expanded the closure partway through the day on April 5. Signs were also posted on the doors of the Coop, which were locked during that time. The C-store and smoothie station opened at 11 a.m. on April 5 and the Coop opened at 5 p.m. later that day. No reasons for the closure were posted at the time of the shutdown and students’ questions regarding why the COOP was closed on Instagram initially went unanswered.

“COOP and smoothies will also be closed Sunday, April 4th. Monday, April 5 will resume normal hours of operation,” the April 3 Instagram post stated. “Thank you for your continued patience and understanding.”

COOP dining services manager Colleen Corgel, who said staff learned of the positive case on April 3, directed the cleaning, tracing and testing efforts to address the issue.

“A staff member tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday the third. Looking out for the safety of the campus community, we closed while contract tracing could be conducted, a thorough cleaning of the COOP could be done and the rest of our staff [could] undergo testing prior to re-opening,” Corgel said. “Colgate Dining’s Instagram was used to provide the most up-to-date information and signs were posted on the doors to the COOP and smoothie areas.”

First-year Emily Corson expressed understanding about the closures but remained frustrated with the lack of information provided to students.

“I was not notified about the COOP being closed until I tried to enter, and then looked at my email and at the Colgate Dining Instagram to see what was going on,” Corson said. “I thought that it was inconvenient that the COOP was closed because that’s the primary place I eat on campus. After I heard why they were closed, I understood better and saw it as less of an inconvenience, but I hadn’t known that before. It seemed almost like they were trying to keep it a secret, because it was just said that it was closed which was a little weird.”

First-year Cassy Bennett shared Corson’s frustrations regarding the lack of warning students were given regarding the closure.

“I was bamboozled. It ruined my day,” Bennett said when asked about how she felt about the closure. “I walked all the way to the COOP for breakfast before finding out they were closed. I ended up not getting to eat breakfast.”

Corgel reflected on the unique challenges COVID-19 poses to the COOP as opposed to other dining locations on campus. 

“With the COOP being a smaller space, we are mostly impacted by the need to physically distance and overall capacity reductions,” Corgel said. “To offset the reduced seating in the COOP main dining room, we are using spaces for seating that hadn’t been used in the past, for example the lobby area just outside of the threshold of the COOP. Also, we have utilized technology with Boost mobile ordering for smoothies to prevent lines for smoothies that we have seen in years past.”

Bennett and Corson both agree that the COOP adds value to Colgate’s campus and were happy to see operations resume as normal. 

“The COOP is the center of student life on campus in my opinion. Not only does it have really good food, but there’s the CLSI, C-store, mailroom, radio station and printing lab,” Corson said. “There are an incredible amount of resources provided by the school for students that are extremely helpful for everyday life that I honestly don’t think most students could go without. The staff are also incredibly kind — Cathy is a sweetheart — and are always on top of their jobs.”

Bennett said that the COOP is convenient for its easy grab and go meals, a feature other dining spots on campus do not provide as easily.

“The COOP is one of the only options on upper campus to just grab and go,” Bennett said. “At Frank you need your clamshell, your ticket, whatever, but at the COOP you can just run in and grab whatever you want. It’s really convenient. Before this, I’d never encountered problems there.”

Bennett’s and Corsons’ thoughts correspond with Corgel’s regarding both the goals of the COOP and student interaction with the facilities. 

“I feel that the COOP offers a different dining experience for the campus in that it’s a more intimate space, you can sit with your friends or by yourself and it’s a relaxed, welcoming atmosphere. We challenge ourselves to offer something different than what is available elsewhere on campus while still maintaining familiarity,” Corgel said. “Students have been very receptive and respectful of the changes we have made at the COOP. We love to see students come through the COOP multiple times a day and regularly throughout the week.”