Auburn University reported 53 new COVID-19 cases in the past week, according to data the University's COVID-19 Resource Center released today, Sept. 22.
This is a continued decrease in record positive cases – just under half the previously reported number of 109 cases from the week before.
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 159 tests conducted, no tests returned any positive results. As such, there was a 0.0% positivity rate for the week ending Sept. 20. The previous week saw 329 individuals tested, returning a 1.8% positivity rate for the week ending Sept. 13.
The University released a video on Tuesday where Dr. Fred Kam, director of the Auburn University Medical Clinic, attributed the decrease to more people continuing to follow health and safety guidelines for COVID-19 and better implementation of such policies.
"We're having a lull locally within the Auburn-Opelika-Lee County area with numbers down, statewide with numbers down and even nationally with numbers down," Kam said. "They're down because people are taking the extra effort to follow the preventive measures, as well as leaders making the tough decisions to mitigate the spread of the virus."
Kam said he was pleased to see the cases continue to drop, as he had expected the past week to see a spike in cases from the Labor Day weekend.
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Kam also encouraged enrolled and employed individuals to opt into Sentinel Testing if requested to participate, as it allows the University to predict what upcoming weeks of COVID-19 on campus and in the Auburn area may look like.
"Sentinel Testing is the ability to understand what the burden of disease could possibly be having, and that's particularly important with this virus, where more than 40% of people are asymptomatic," Kam said. "It's a mechanism to see if you have an underlying problem or you are on the verge of a possible outbreak or a cluster or something to that effect or area of concern you may need to focus on."
To those who have contracted COVID-19, Kam said current research shows that those individuals may have some form of immunity for up to 90 days, though it remains a scientific unknown.
Kam also addressed the mental health impact of the pandemic up to this point.
"This virus has ... really disrupted our freedom, our life," he said. "It doesn't just affect us physically – we've been focused on avoiding the infection and having others get infected. The reality is it also affects us mentally, so a number of us struggle."
For those going through mental health struggles currently, Kam encouraged the use of University services involving counseling and asked people to be "sensitive to your own situation," calling friends and family through Zoom, Skype and other video calling applications.
As Auburn's first football game of the season and its first home football game during the pandemic approaches, Kam acknowledged the University's protocols in place for having a game with fans. Social distancing, requiring masks, and putting fans into discrete groups for seating such as household members and friend groups.
"Those mechanisms are considered right now to be the best possible practices, but how well they work we won't know," Kam said. "If you just follow those guidelines and adhere to those guidelines we cannot just have a first successful game, we can have a remainder of a successful season for fan participation."
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