Auburn University reported 17 new COVID-19 cases in the past week, according to data released Tuesday afternoon by its COVID-19 Resource Center. This was an increase of six positive cases over last week's data.
In the week ending Oct. 25, there were 15 cases reported on the University's main campus in Auburn, while one was reported at the Auburn University Regional Airport and one was reported at the Harrison School of Pharmacy's Mobile campus.
Tests conducted as part of the GuideSafe Sentinel Testing Program saw a decrease in positive cases over last week's data. A total of 379 tests were conducted with 0.26% returning a positive result.
In his weekly update video released by the University, Dr. Fred Kam, director of the Auburn University Medical Clinic, said the increase in cases was "not unexpected" as he predicted in previous videos.
"A majority of [cases] were students," Kam said. "People are feeling the need to socialize and interact and not taking the necessary precautions, and so they're starting to come down with the spread of the virus."
Continuing on this point, Kam said he feels students and the Auburn community are beginning to let their guard down in minding COVID-19 guidelines.
"You can see it around town; you can see it when you go out in public," he said. "Even on campus, when you walk through some of the buildings, you're seeing some people who at the start would have their mask on in their respective locations on campus starting to let that mask slip some."
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Kam said he understands feelings of fatigue from daily mask wearing and distancing but reminded viewers that these policies are key to keeping at-risk individuals from contracting COVID-19.
"Getting this COVID fatigue where you constantly feel like you constantly have to be vigilant ... is a bit tiring," Kam said. "I'm in the same boat, but that vigilance is the difference between you getting infection or you spreading infection and, unfortunately, a vulnerable person getting this infection and not doing as well."
Kam said the United States is currently in the second wave of coronavirus that was anticipated in the fall; however, he said this began earlier than some estimates predicted. Internationally, Kam said several European countries such as Italy, Spain and France are also seeing significant increases.
"We're right behind them now," he said. "Normally we're about six or more weeks behind them, [but] we're closer to them than we have been in the past."
As the fall and winter holidays approach, Kam said states in the South may see a noticeable rise in cases in the next couple months. COVID cases are currently rising in northern states, according to Kam.
"We really need to hunker down if we're going to have a happy holiday season," he said. "We had our run in the summer and the northern states got away, now the northern and the midwestern states are having their run. It's going to circle itself all the way back around Arizona, Texas and across the South, including Alabama."
Kam asked people to keep the coronavirus in mind as they enjoy the upcoming weekend, which will see Auburn football's next game at home against LSU converging with Halloween. This included creating what he called a "strict social bubble" by limiting gatherings with others.
"Please remember the virus is just as contagious, it hasn't gone anywhere," Kam said. "It has one mission and that is to find people who have not been infected and infect them. I don't think this is a great time for us to be having a spike before Thanksgiving."
The Med Clinic has encouraged employees off campus to take part in the GuideSafe Sentinel Testing Program. Faculty have still tested positive after going to gatherings with colleagues, spreading the virus to those visiting campus, Kam said.
"It's one big community, and so we need to have a much better idea of what's going on in the community as a whole, even if you're on or off campus," Kam said. "If you get chosen to come in to be tested and you're off campus or you did not sign up to be tested, I encourage you to do that."
Kam said the intention behind the Sentinel Testing Program is for the University to be aware of a larger potential outbreak before it happens. If not enough people sign up to be tested, he said, the University cannot accurately report this data.
Another important day on the horizon for American citizens is Election Day on Nov. 3. Kam said those at risk for contracting the virus or those in regular contact with an at-risk person should vote with a mail-in or absentee ballot if they are able.
"That may not be possible because of the logistics," he said. "What is possible is the day that you go to vote ... you must take the precautions — you must wear your mask. You need to hold other people accountable around you to wear their mask properly, to keep a six-foot distance from you and you from them and sanitize your hands."
Kam said he hopes the U.S. has a successful Election Day.
"As Americans, I believe we should exercise our right to vote regardless of who or what you vote for, but you need to take precautions," he said. "The virus doesn't care what or who you're voting for — all it cares about is whether you've been infected or not and if it can find you."
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