Today, we have more results from our COVID-19 testing, which includes results from entry testing and follow-up testing with targeted populations.
Overall, our entry testing identified 546 positive cases out of 22,563 total test results, for a 2.42% overall positivity rate.
As our mass entry testing program wraps up this week, we’re conducting fewer overall tests in a more targeted fashion, especially in populations that are close contacts of positive individuals. For example, we received 10,370 student test results from Aug. 16-22 testing, compared to 2,734 results from Aug. 23-29 testing. Along with that shift, we are seeing some increases in our overall positivity rates. For example, our student population overall tested positive at a rate of 6.03% from Aug. 23-29, compared to 2.64% for the seven days prior.
Our Greek community added new incoming freshmen to their rosters since our last report, and we conducted some targeted retesting among the Greek community throughout the entry testing process. With these new individuals and tests included, we identified 332 positive cases from 3,962 test results, for an overall positivity rate of 8.38%. We continue to commend our Greek community for working with us to improve the health and safety within the community.
Additional information is available at protect.ku.edu/covid-19-test-reporting.
Our entry testing effort has helped us to identify positive cases, move them into isolation, and remove them from the general community. We’ve reached the point now where many of our initial positive cases have completed isolation requirements and have been cleared to return to campus. We know of no cases associated with our entry testing efforts where individuals have required care beyond their physician’s office, including no known hospitalizations.
As our entry testing comes to a close this week, this will be the final time you receive results in this format. Next week, we are planning to launch a new approach to sharing our testing results and other COVID-19 related data, developed in collaboration with our local and community health partners. Look for directions on how to access this information next week.
Our testing strategy for the rest of the semester
Our testing effort the rest of the semester will look different than the mass entry testing process we conducted at the beginning of the semester.
Moving forward, testing will include a larger proportion of symptomatic or close contact tests — you may see higher positivity rates as our testing pool will include a higher number of people with greater likelihood of exposure to COVID-19. We will be conducting testing with a fewer number of overall saliva tests – an estimated 525 per week – and will target them in a more strategic way. These tests will be deployed in two ways: targeted testing at Watkins Health Services for confirmed contacts of positive individuals, and randomized prevalence testing.
We have already begun to conduct tests at Watkins Health Services for confirmed close contacts of positive individuals. A close contact is identified as someone who comes within six feet of a confirmed positive individual for 10 minutes or more, including household contacts and roommates.
Close contacts of positive individuals are required to self-quarantine, and Watkins Health Services is available at scheduled times for close contacts to access testing seven days after exposure – an incubation time for the virus to typically be detected. Importantly, a negative test result does not remove the quarantine obligation for close contacts. Not all close contacts of a positive case require a test, as the quarantine process is often sufficient to prevent further spread of COVID-19.
In addition to testing close contacts, we also plan next week to begin randomized prevalence testing, consisting of about 350 tests each week. We will collect tests from representative, randomized samples of specific campus populations to help us track the spread of the virus. As part of this randomized sampling, you may receive an email inviting you to participate in a test. I encourage those of you who receive a message to participate in this process.
This approach — combining both targeted testing of close contacts and randomized prevalence testing — will allow us to continue to monitor the spread of COVID-19 in specific populations and provide insights that our Pandemic Medical Advisory Team can use as they make decisions and provide guidance regarding campus operations.
Thank you for your efforts
As we’ve said all along, we knew that our entry testing would result in positive cases, and the results so far remain in line with what we’ve expected and are prepared to manage. We have an outstanding team of public health experts who will be monitoring our situation closely in partnership with local and governmental health organizations, as we know things can change quickly.
If we see data that necessitates additional action from us, we will communicate that to you at that time.
Thank you for all you’re doing to further our teaching and research mission and to help us prioritize the health and safety of our community.
Douglas A. Girod