Auburn University reported a total of 11 new COVID-19 cases for the week ending Oct. 18. The University's COVID-19 Resource Center updated its weekly data on Thursday afternoon, which has continued to decrease.
This is the lowest number of cases reported since the beginning of the fall semester and a continuous decline since the week ending Sept. 6. All 11 cases were recorded on Auburn's main campus.
A total of 419 sentinel tests were conducted during the week ending Oct. 18 as part of the GuideSafe Sentinel Testing Program, with 0.48% of these tests returning a positive COVID-19 result. This was a greater number of tests conducted than in the previous week.
In a weekly update video released by the University, Dr. Fred Kam, director of the Auburn University Medical Clinic, said he believes the end of in-person fall classes on Nov. 24 is "very doable [and] very reachable" with the pattern of case numbers seen this semester.
"The things that we need to continue to do include wearing your mask, physically socially distancing, sanitizing your hands and finally, limiting your interactions with other people and keeping your social bubble to a minimum, especially as you are considering going home ... and potentially interacting with some of your vulnerable family members," Kam said as a reminder to students.
Kam said both Auburn and Lee County COVID-19 numbers have trended low, but people should be aware that cases are rising statewide and beyond.
"Across the state, there are signs that there are new cases that are starting to bump up," he said. "Nationally, we are seeing a rise in new cases in a number of states – over 40 to be exact – and internationally we are definitely seeing the second wave happening in Europe and Canada and some other countries. With that comes some new restrictions."
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Kam said there have been documented cases of people contracting the virus again but this number of people has been "very small." However, he said those who have recovered from the coronavirus should continue to follow recommended safe health guidelines.
"It's too early for us to tell what percentage or what degree of people can get reinfected," Kam said. "Right now, my advice is to treat it as though you can get reinfected [and] to treat everyone as though they are infected. That way, you will decrease your risk of getting reinfected."
On the topic of masks and face coverings, Kam said wearing a mask is important as it is the most effective means of preventing the spread of COVID-19 because it is a respiratory virus.
"You should be wearing masks as often and all the time if you can, both indoors and outdoors, on transit, wherever you can," he said. "This works, the science is there. Should you be exposed to the virus, there is scientific data that says wearing a mask will reduce your degree or the amount of inoculation of the virus you will get. It will tend to make your symptoms ... mild or asymptomatic."
When the University was evaluating steps to take to make campus safer this semester, Kam said requiring masks was Auburn's first priority. Though the University has rescinded its mask requirement for outdoor areas implemented the second day of classes, Kam said he continues to wear his wherever he goes in public.
"[Even though] it has changed to indoors mandatory, outdoors optional if you can keep distance, you will not see me in the outdoor areas without my mask," Kam said. "I wear it indoors and outdoors."
As for what type of mask Kam recommends, he said people might have to deal with some discomfort with masks that are more effective, but they should wear one they will regularly make use of.
"The more uncomfortable the mask is to wear, the more likely it's protective," Kam said. "Wear a mask that you are going to consistently wear. It's of no use if you're going to wear an uncomfortable mask but wear it very infrequently. It would be better that you wear a mask that is comfortable for you that you can be consistent with and wear it as much as you can."
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