Increasing Efforts to Flatten the Curve
As members of the University of Georgia’s Medical Oversight Task Force, we are encouraged by the recent results that we are seeing from UGA’s testing efforts. Last week’s report of positive cases was particularly encouraging, with a 70% drop in cases from the previous week (and with daily participation in our surveillance testing program steadily increasing). We are optimistic that we will see further progress when the weekly report of our testing data is provided to the campus community tomorrow. If so, our pattern would follow that exhibited by other institutions in the University System—two to three weeks of rising numbers followed by a plateau and decline.
We hope that the data will indeed attest to a continuing downward trend. Even if the data are favorable, however, this is no time to relax and let down our guard. On the contrary, it is time to double down and intensify our efforts. Starting today, we call on all of our faculty, staff, and students to join us in helping to Flatten the Curve.
We have continued to increase the capacity of the free surveillance testing program for asymptomatic individuals at Legion Field and now can accommodate close to 500 students, faculty, and staff per day, Monday through Friday. We also have incorporated randomized testing of students, and we are specifically inviting students in certain groups (e.g., this week, those who reside in off-campus housing) to participate. We encourage all students who receive such emails to accept the invitation and schedule a test. We are also planning to include faculty and staff in the randomization protocol.
Visit the surveillance testing portal via the University Health Center’s website to schedule an appointment for asymptomatic testing at Legion Field. With our increased capacity, we are often able to accommodate same day appointments.
Our surveillance testing program constitutes a major component of the University’s comprehensive response to the COVID-19 pandemic. There are, of course, many other measures in place, and these are clearly making a positive impact. Our GeorgiaStrong/DawgStrong campaign continues to impress the need for good hand hygiene, the wearing of face coverings, and social distancing. Classrooms have been de-densified to allow six feet of physical distance between seating. All of us are strongly encouraged to complete the COVID-19 daily symptom checker before coming to campus and are required to report a positive COVID-19 test result in DawgCheck regardless of where the test was taken. Any individual with suspected symptoms of COVID-19 is not to come to campus.
The University of Georgia has set aside nearly 500 rooms, both on campus in University Housing and at the Georgia Center, as well as in the local community, to accommodate students who need isolation or quarantine housing after testing positive or being exposed through close contact. Upon receiving notification of such cases from DawgCheck, members of the Student Care and Outreach team reach out to each student to help coordinate housing, food delivery, contact with professors, and other needs. As of the end of last week, only 15% of our capacity for isolation and quarantine housing was in use. We have ample space to manage our need, which we hope will continue to diminish.
UGA is closely adhering to CDC guidelines for isolation or quarantine. Per the CDC, any employee or student exposed as a close contact to a COVID-19 positive individual must quarantine for 14 days and may only return after completion of the quarantine period. The CDC has recently reverted to previous language recommending that close contacts who are in quarantine be tested; this is to determine if they are infectious at the time of the testing and does not impact the 14-day duration of confinement if the test is negative. Neither the CDC nor the University is requiring a negative COVID-19 test before an individual returns to campus following completion of the 14-day quarantine.
If at any time symptoms suggestive of COVID-19 develop, whether it be while in quarantine or not, an individual should isolate and seek the guidance of their medical provider regarding testing or other measures. At UGA, and per the CDC, anyone with a positive COVID-19 test who is not showing symptoms still has to complete a 10-day isolation period starting on the date the test was taken.
For individuals with active symptoms who test positive, the CDC has clear guidelines as to when an employee or student may return to campus. In addition to the 10-day isolation period which begins at the onset of symptoms, the following must also be met:
- at least 24 hours with no fever without fever-reducing medication and
- symptoms of COVID-19 are improving (although loss of taste and smell may persist for weeks or months after recovery and need not delay the end of isolation).
Calculators are now available to help determine end dates for various quarantine and isolation scenarios through the DawgCheck webpage.
There are no current CDC guidelines that require a negative COVID-19 test at the completion of a quarantine or isolation period. Recent research has shown that after a COVID-19 illness, individuals may have detectable levels of viral RNA in their bodies for up to three months after diagnosis. Therefore, retesting for COVID-19 within three months of initial infection is not suggested since individuals may continue to have a positive result even though they are not spreading COVID-19.
We are confident that the University is making significant progress in our ongoing efforts to manage through the COVID-19 pandemic. We urge all members of the UGA community to join us in helping to Flatten the Curve by participating in our surveillance testing program, using DawgCheck on a daily basis, following social distancing guidelines, wearing face coverings, and washing your hands. Remember that together, we are GeorgiaStrong/DawgStrong.