Auburn University's COVID-19 Resource Center reported 8 new COVID-19 cases on campus from March 15-21 self-reported by students and employees, an increase of 1 case over the data from March 8-14. All cases reported originated on Auburn's main campus.
There were more sentinel tests conducted through the University's sentinel testing program with 573 tests taken. For the fourth consecutive week, no sentinel tests returned a positive result, meaning there was a 0% positivity rate.
The University is currently in phase 1C of its COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan, which means those who are consistently on campus for work and cannot maintain physical distancing are eligible to receive their first dose. Also eligible are adults with high-risk medical conditions or those 65 or older not eligible in phase 1B or both, as well as students in remote or off-campus clinical settings.
As of Monday, March 22, the University said it has received 11,900 doses of vaccine, with 6,424 first doses administered and 5,240 second doses administered.
For the second week in a row, there were no students staying in either quarantine or isolation housing during the week of March 15-21.
The Auburn University Medical Clinic took 220 COVID-19 tests between March 15-21, with 4 returning a positive result, a positivity rate of 1.8%. For comparison, the clinic took 229 tests from March 8-14, with 6 returning a positive result, or 2.6%. The clinic received a total of 2,086 phone calls from March 15-21.
Dr. Fred Kam, director of the Med Clinic, said it was "another great week" for Auburn as all data is on a downward trend. He noted that the positivity rate and testing numbers have decreased while sentinel testing numbers increased. He thanked Greek life organizations particularly for the rise in participants.
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"Thank you to the Greeks, you are the largest percentage of [the sentinel testing] increase," Kam said. "More importantly, that gave us the opportunity to expand a number of things included the size of events."
For those looking to travel home for the Easter holiday, Kam encouraged people to limit socializing and potential exposure to the coronavirus in advance by quarantining.
"Be thinking smart, the virus hasn't gone anywhere," he said. "It's still pretty prevalent all around, especially in many states so take the steps that you need to take."
Kam said the University has exhausted its current supply of COVID-19 vaccines and is awaiting additional doses from the Alabama Department of Public Health as well as East Alabama Medical Center. Kam applauded EAMC in its vaccine distribution and said it has helped play a major role in lowering cases in Auburn and Lee County compared to the rest of the state and surrounding areas.
"Our partner, [EAMC], continues to vaccinate a lot of people in the community, including those related to higher education," Kam said. "We've done thousands of vaccines between the two of us, making Auburn more resilient and increasing our efforts to watch herd immunity."
The University's herd immunity is "definitely getting closer" between those who contracted COVID as well as those who have been vaccinated, Kam said. However, he acknowledged that new members of the campus community like incoming students and faculty may affect this later in the summer.
Kam said he anticipates the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to be approved soon after AstraZeneca released data about the effectiveness of the vaccine on Monday.
"[Approval would] make a fourth vaccine, and with that fourth vaccine comes millions of doses that can be delivered," Kam said. "That's part of the strategy, hopefully that's going to happen pretty soon."
However, the Data and Safety Monitoring Board of the National Institutes for Health released a statement Monday night that AstraZeneca's data may have used outdated results, which would prolong federal approval.
Looking at national virus trends, Kam said there have been over a dozen states that have seen increases in positive cases, largely related to the British COVID-19 variant.
"That was expected — the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] had said back in February that the British variant would be the dominant strain come March," he said. "I don't think that the numbers quite hit what we were expecting but it's going to increase and going into Easter that's the concern."
Kam said the variant has had a significant impact on countries in western Europe which may be a sign of things to come after Easter in the U.S.
The University increased its event attendance limit on in-person campus events to 150 people on Monday. Kam attributed the decision to the decreased positivity rate, number of vaccines administered, higher numbers of sentinel tests performed and higher outdoor temperatures.
"When we put all those things together, we felt comfortable in increasing the size of events," he said. "We're working towards maybe increasing that again going forward into the future depending on how things go over the next few weeks."
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