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UGA’s COVID-19 Cases Hold Steady

Credit: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The University of Georgia’s weekly COVID-19 update showed a steady rate of new cases for Oct. 12–18, with 84 total positive cases reported through the university’s DawgCheck system for last week. Of those cases, 74 were students, eight were staff and two were faculty. This marks the third week that showed steady staff positivity cases in the testing.

Out of 2,029 surveillance tests given to asymptomatic students, faculty and staff last week, there were 25 positives, a rate of 1.23%, down slightly from 1.44%. The data shows improvement in surveillance-testing participation for the second week in a row.

Garth Russo, executive director of the University Health Center and chair of UGA’s Medical Oversight Task Force, was upbeat about the increase in surveillance testing participation, particularly after recent home football games.

“The positivity rate for surveillance testing is the second lowest that we have recorded for a full week since students returned for the fall semester, so obviously, I am pleased with these test results, particularly coming after two home football games,” he said via press release. “These results demonstrate that the measures we are taking to promote the health and safety of our faculty, staff and students—both as an institution and on an individual basis—are working.”

Of note in this week’s surveillance testing update: Data on a new effort to offer pop-up saliva-based surveillance testing at the Chicopee site for Facilities Management as part of a flu-shot drive, as well as a pop-up site at the Health Sciences Campus this week. Of the 126 tests done, 125 were negative and one was positive. The saliva-based tests are PCR or viral tests and not rapid antigen tests.

Outside of the surveillance testing program, however, the positivity rate this week is up. Excluding surveillance testing positive cases, there were 59 positive cases reported through DawgCheck, with 20 positive cases reported from the University Health Center and 39 positive cases in the “other” category, which includes tests performed off-campus in Athens and elsewhere. The UHC, where students are often tested because they have symptoms, performed 155 tests, with the positivity rate increasing from 7% to 12.9%.

Clarke County remains on the White House Coronavirus Task Force’s list of emerging counties in Georgia, a sign that public health officials believe the infection rate may be rising or is about to rise.

UGA researchers also detected more viruses in Athens wastewater last week, indicating cases could be on the rise.

“SARS‑CoV‑2 concentrations in Athens-Clarke County wastewater showed a consistent upward trend this week,” reported the Center for the Ecology of Infectious Diseases. “[Water Reclamation Facility] A continued its increase from the prior week with concentrations reaching as high as 1 million copies per [liter]. Concentrations at WRF B increased from the below the limit of detection to >300,000 copies per L. The continued upward trends may suggest changes in viral shedding within the community.”

To date, Clarke County has had 5,569 confirmed cases, 239 hospitalizations and 46 deaths. That’s an increase of 170 cases from last Wednesday and three additional hospitalizations, but no new deaths reported.

On Thursday, the Georgia Department of Public Health’s county indicator report added another 108 probable cases in Clarke County, bringing the total to 899. Most of those cases can be attributed to rapid antigen testing results, which are not included in the DPH figures for confirmed cases.