August 25, 2020

U of L reports 38 new COVID cases in first week of school

By Joseph Garcia —

The University of Louisville had 38 new cases of COVID-19 last week.  Of 2,615 new tests, 38 came back positive.

This brings U of L’s cumulative total of positive cases to 90 out of almost 5,000 administered tests over the past two weeks. The positivity rate is now 1.83%.

This number does not include the 85 positive cases in the athletics department. Those numbers won’t be updated until later this week said Kenny Klein, associate athletics director.

Since Aug. 17, the university has switched its stance on at-will testing and has now made testing mandatory for all students, faculty and staff who come to campus. In an email sent Aug. 25, the Pivot to Fall Committee reported that more than 1,400 people – almost one third of the total who participated in the previous two weeks – were tested Aug. 24. Evening hours for all Belknap testing locations have also been added from 6-9 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

“We are pleased to see the positivity rate decline but even more pleased to announce that we have greatly increased the number of contact tracers in our employ to 8 FTE,” the committee said. “We remain hopeful that the combination of testing, tracing and good hygiene will enable us to continue normal operations.”

U of L Director of Communications John Karman said the change to mandatory testing came to better see how the university is doing in preventing the spread of the virus.

“We need more comprehensive data to ensure we are controlling any spread on campus, allowing us to continue to offer classes as designed for the duration of fall semester,” Karman said.

Individuals who refuse to get tested before Sept. 4 may face disciplinary action from the university Karman said.

“Students who don’t comply will be subject to discipline under the Student Code of Conduct. Similarly, faculty and staff may be subject to discipline under the Redbook,” he said. “The dean of students’ office, department heads and supervisors will receive notification of who has been tested.”

Online, students have criticized the university for their transparency on reporting COVID cases.

Since launching the testing dashboard, U of L has released data on how many tests have been administered and how many have come back positive. This information is updated by Campus Health every Tuesday. Students are saying that’s not enough.

Nick Beeny, a senior music education major, is one of those criticizing the university’s actions. He said weekly testing doesn’t give students enough time to make informed decisions on how they should take their classes.

“I honestly think the bare minimum should be daily updates,” Beeny said. “We are expected to make decisions on whether or not we feel safe and whether it would be better to take remote classes, however we really aren’t given enough data to make informed decisions. Before a week is up, case counts could spike dramatically and we wouldn’t know about it until later.”

Student Government President Sabrina Collins said she and other Top 4 members have expressed their concerns to university admin and asked to begin posting daily updates.

“We have encouraged the administration to provide the most up-to-date testing information to the student body as they receive it,” Collins said. “We were told they would ‘pass it on.'”

Karman said the numbers aren’t released daily because they can “greatly fluctuate.”

“Think about it this way: What if we had 35 cases on a Monday and zero cases the other four days? If we released information daily, the Monday figures would badly skew the data and probably create undue concern,” Karman explained. “By having a week’s worth of numbers, we have a better indication of the real positivity rate on campus.”

Beeny, like other students on Twitter, isn’t buying it though.

“The state has been doing [daily updates] for the entire pandemic,” he said. “Concern and due diligence are warranted in a pandemic as dangerous as this one. The students here are smart and know how this works. Governor Beshear has been a calming voice throughout all of this and has been working together with experts to make sure the public understands what is going on – I would expect the same from the university.”

In a survey Beeny did, out of 400 responses, more than 80% agreed or strongly agreed updates should be daily. “When it’s weekly, it almost feels as if something is being hidden and students are being kept in the dark,” Beeny said.

One fear lingering in Beeny’s mind is that the university is putting tuition money above student health.

“I hope this is just the cynic in me, but it’s hard to look at what has happened these past few days and not consider that as a possibility,” he said. “The sudden switch from voluntary to mandatory testing right after the add/drop and tuition deadlines. Tuition insurance seems like a half measure at best. Transparency on processes and decision making would certainly help in this regard and would bring peace of mind to many students.”

File Graphic // The Louisville Cardinal

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