Auburn University reported 17 new COVID-19 cases in the past week, according to data released by the University's COVID-19 Resource Center on Tuesday, Sept. 29. All 17 cases were reported on Auburn's main campus.
The number of cases includes both self-reported positive tests and tests conducted through the Sentinel Testing program.
This is a continued decrease from previous cases and the lowest amount reported since students have returned to campus. The University reported 53 positive tests for the week ending Sept. 20. There has been a continued decline in weekly cases since Sept. 6, when the University reported 598 cases of COVID-19.
New data was also released on the University's Sentinel Testing program conducted in partnership with GuideSafe, a University of Alabama at Birmingham program.
Out of 377 sentinel tests conducted for the week ending Sept. 27, 0.27% tested positive. This indicates that one out of all 377 individuals tested through the Sentinel Testing program tested positive for COVID-19. There was a 0.0% positive rate among the 159 sentinel tests in the week ending on Sept. 20, a 1.8% positivity rate among the 329 sentinel tests for the week ending Sept. 13 and a 6.4% positivity rate among the 621 sentinel tests for the week ending Sept. 6.
“Our students are doing a great job," said Dr. Fred Kam, director of the Auburn University Medical Clinic, in his weekly update video. "I know it’s affected your socialization. I know it’s affected, in some cases, your productivity, it’s affected your mental health, all of these things. But you are resilient, and you continue to strive on."
Kam said that he is hopeful for the future and expects that if the current trend continues, the University will not have to move to entirely-remote instruction for the fall semester.
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However, Kam also said that more student participation is needed in the Sentinel Testing program for it to be effective.
“We need to do more numbers on the sentinel testing, because unfortunately, the number of people who have volunteered or showed up for sentinel testing has been low. The number of people who have been chosen and declined has been high," Kam said. "That does not help the process of sentinel testing."
The goal of sentinel testing, Kam said, is to identify any underlying spread that may be present within Auburn University's campus. This will help to prepare for and potentially mitigate any future outbreaks.
"Without that information, we’re kind of flying in the dark, a little bit," he said.
Kam also commended students for their actions at the first football game and said he felt most students did a good job following game day restrictions.
Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator, visited Auburn last Thursday, when she praised the University and community for the handling of the virus. Kam said that both he and Birx are strongly in support of antibody testing, which is designed to identify individuals who had the virus in the past but perhaps were not aware of it or chose to refrain from testing.
"It will give you some level of comfort that you had the disease, and it will also give us some level of knowledge of what is the prevalence of the disease in the Auburn University community," Kam said in the video.
Antibody blood tests are available the Med Clinic but is not intended for individuals who currently have an infection.
"Antibody testing is not a way to diagnose a present or an acute infection," he said. "It's a way to diagnose whether or not you’ve had a previous infection."
Kam ended his video by encouraging students to get their flu shots before the beginning of the upcoming flu season. A flu shot clinic will be held in the Student Center from 10 a.m.–2 p.m. on Wednesday.
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