Auburn University reported eight new COVID-19 cases for the week ending Nov. 1, according to data from its COVID-19 Resource Center. After a slight increase the week prior, this is the lowest number the University has recorded since classes began in August.
All eight cases were reported from the University's main campus in Auburn. The GuideSafe Sentinel Testing Program performed 616 tests in the past week, with 0.49% returning a positive result.
In the latest weekly update video, Dr. Fred Kam, director of the Auburn University Medical Clinic, said people should be aware Alabama is entering another wave of the coronavirus.
"Alabama's numbers are starting to climb," Kam said. "We're just below a 10% positivity rate which is up a couple percent from just a few weeks ago, and nationally obviously that's happening including in previous hotspots like New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut and other parts of the country."
Kam said that some European countries, such as Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Italy, are reentering lockdowns, noting that the new wave is not just restricted to the United States.
With the data releasing on Election Day, Kam addressed the politicizing of the pandemic in the U.S. He said safeguards against the virus – wearing masks, physical distancing, sanitizing hands and limiting group sizes – will need to be maintained regardless of which party wins the presidency.
"What I've learned so far from this virus is it has no political preference," he said. "It doesn't matter whether you're a Republican, Democrat or just don't vote at all. All that matters is whether you've been infected or not infected. You need to understand that the virus hasn't gone anywhere; it's just as contagious, and it's going to spread."
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Kam thanked the students, faculty and staff at the University and members of the Auburn community who have adhered to guidelines and health recommendations. He also commended fellow healthcare professionals for working diligently during the pandemic, including those in intensive care units.
"[Thank you to] all the people that are doing what they should be doing to prevent the number of cases, [more] people getting COVID and possibly the number of people needing to be hospitalized or risking that Auburn University would have been required to go all online," Kam said.
Speaking to parents whose children may be returning home from Auburn for Thanksgiving, Kam said both groups should begin limiting contact with people over the next 14 days ahead of the holiday. He said people always risk bringing it home if they interact with enough people each day.
"Those of you that are going to have vulnerable high-risk people [at Thanksgiving], you may want to take some extra steps, including testing a day or two before you go home," Kam said. "You want to pre-schedule that as best as possible in an effort to decrease the risk of giving it to someone who's vulnerable. Start thinking now, start acting now [and] be responsible."
Temperatures in Auburn have begun to decrease within the last few weeks. Kam said this will create more optimal environments for the virus to spread as people gather indoors.
"Remember this virus started over the wintertime, and here we are 10, 11 months heading into it," he said. "We are going to see more spread because of ... more indoor activities. It will continue to spread, and we have to take that into account as we go through our daily lives and activities."
Kam reiterated the pandemic's mental health effects with days becoming shorter because of the end of Daylight Saving Time on Sunday. This year may see more individuals with seasonal affective disorder because of distancing and reduced events, he said.
"We're in for a period here where people need to pay [an] incredible amount of attention to your mental health and the importance of recognizing your symptoms and getting the necessary help," Kam said.
This "necessary help" can include light therapy and staying socially connected with others, Kam said. He said there is not one individual process that relieves mental health issues, but people checking up on one another and working together to ensure everyone is getting the help they need.
As flu season carries on in tandem with the pandemic, Kam said the clinic is making adjustments to treating patients who do not show COVID-19 symptoms and have not been recently exposed to someone with the virus. According to Kam, individuals in this category showing signs of other infections like strep throat, mono, the common cold or influenza may visit the clinic in person on the second floor.
"We're focusing all our respiratory complaint-type effort to be seen by clinicians in person with the appropriate PPE," Kam said. "I encourage you, if that's the case, please call the clinic or use the patient portal and make an appointment."
For those who have not received flu shots this year, Kam encourages getting the shot this week to have it take effect by Thanksgiving week. Kam said students can receive a free flu shot at the Med Clinic without an appointment, but other options are also available, such as pharmacies or grocery stores.
"When a person gets a flu shot, it takes about 10 to 14 days for it to be effective," he said. "For those of you that are going home or for those of you who are having people come to your home, you're in the last real week of when it's the best time to get the flu shot."
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