To discourage travel, Labor Day not a holiday at UK

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Students on campus wearing masks during day to day activities. Photo by Pete Comparoni | UKphoto

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ)Labor Day is not a holiday for staff and students as part of the University of Kentucky’s broader efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus, among the thousands of students and staff.

That effort already is attracting attention from other schools across the country because of the mass testing and fol,low-up system, quarantine facilities and other steps the university has taken.

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“We are advising students to stay on campus because it is the best way to ensure the health and safety of everyone involved, irrespective of the current numbers on campus. And that’s the kind of advice that Dr. Fauci and others are providing throughout the country for all campuses. And we changed our academic calendar before the start of the fall semester. Labor day is now a work day and class day – that was done as part of an effort to incentivize students to say on campus all semester and limit travel,” UK spokesperson Jim Blanton said.

Gov. Andy Beshear touched on the subject during his daily briefing Wednesday.

When asked about quarantining students in hotels rather than sending them to their hometowns, Beshear noted, “Sending them home runs the risk of exposing them there to other people and bringing it back or them taking the virus home, home where they might not be in as structured an environment.”

And from fraternities and sororities that have been turned into coronavirus quarantine areas to the number of students isolating off campus, UK launched Wednesday a comprehensive dashboard, to be updated daily, with information relevant to the current campus impact of COVID-19.

Data in the dashboard are presented in the context of the 25,373 students who, as of Sept. 1, the university has required to complete a COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test. Students who don’t physically come to campus are not required to be tested.

Relevant data points in the dashboard include:

  • Total active cases, defined as the number of UK students, to the knowledge of UK Health Corps, who have tested positive for COVID-19 and have not yet been released from their respective isolation locations or county health departments.
  • Total recovered cases, defined as the number of students who previously tested positive and have since been released from their respective health departments in the counties in which they are isolating. This also applies to cases that are beyond 14 days of the test date.
  • Total new cases, defined as the number of students who have tested positive for COVID-19 who did not previously exist in UK’s database of detected results.
  • Number of students currently in isolation. Self-isolation separates people who have tested positive for COVID-19 from the general population. Notably, this differs from quarantine, which separates and restricts the movement of people who were exposed, but have not tested positive, to COVID-19.
  • Percentage of students and employees who have completed the required daily screening. All students and employees who come on to campus are required to complete a COVID-19 screening, every day, seven days a week. Completion of this screening is necessary to remain in compliance with university requirements.
  • UK-collected test results to date. These data reflect COVID-19 test results conducted through on-campus testing and retesting (by Wild Health and/or University Health Service) from the beginning of the semester through present day.

UK President Eli Capilouto said these data reflect the institution’s comprehensive modern public health infrastructure, fueled by a world-class college of public health and academic medical center.

“We are making data-driven decisions, informed by the work of scientists, clinicians and public health experts, to protect the health and safety of our community,” Capilouto said. “Science drives our interventions and shapes our approach to combating this virus.”

The dashboard reflects the robust data collection that is fueling the contact tracing process overseen by UK Health Corps. Seven days a week, UK’s team of contact tracers coordinates with university data analysts to detect trends, implement interventions and provide tailored support to members of the university community.

The team’s efforts are further informed by the daily screening all UK community members are required to complete if they come to campus, as well as the robust baseline testing required of all UK students who plan to physically interact with the campus community.

“The enormous amount of data we have collected — and continue to collect through our contact tracing protocols — allows us to quickly recognize trends and respond efficiently, comprehensively and compassionately,” said Lance Poston, co-project director of UK Health Corps. “The baseline testing was a powerful starting point as we began the semester. The daily screening continues to equip our contact tracers with the information they need to assess the landscape of our campus as it relates to COVID-19, as we all strive to combat the spread of this virus.”

As the dashboard reflects, UK’s currently active student cases, as a percentage of those who have been tested (the positivity rate), remains below 2%.

The institution recently completed a second phase of testing that focused specifically on members of UK Fraternity and Sorority Life organizations. The university will continue to test specific student populations as the data indicates trends in infection or exposure rates.

“We are approaching this challenge with the same characteristics that have always distinguished the UK community — determination and compassion,” Capilouto said. “This robust, comprehensive and labor-intensive approach to data-driven intervention underscores our resolve to provide the safest residential experience possible. Against that backdrop, I know that people across our campus are asking themselves every day how they can, in new ways, continue to connect with each other and show how much they care. That is who we are. That is what we do.”