At a virtual community presentation on Thursday, Associate Professor of Epidemiology at the Rollins School of Public Health Neel Gandhi announced that 47 Emory students, faculty and staff have tested positive for COVID-19 since Aug. 1.
The presentation coincided with the University publishing its COVID-19 dashboard, which will track total confirmed positive cases among Emory affiliates. Since June 1, the University reported 102 cases, 43 of which are students and 59 of which are faculty or staff. The total count includes self-reported cases and positive cases from University-administered testing but excludes Emory Healthcare employees.
Of the positive cases since Aug. 1, 18 are students and 29 are faculty or staff. College Dean Michael Elliott noted 15 of these cases came from tests administered by Emory, with an increase in one case since last week’s announcement. The previous announcement did not include self-reported positive tests, however. The University tested 8,527 individuals between Aug. 1 and Aug. 18 in the first round of screening.
The dashboard provides a seven-day moving average of confirmed cases and will be updated daily at noon. The page also includes a table of positive cases reported in the last two weeks, which includes information about when each person tested positive, when they were last on campus and whether they are a student, faculty or staff.
Executive Director of Emory Student Health Services Sharon Rabinovitz said the University is adding a “testing pod” at the Woodruff P.E. Center to routinely test for asymptomatic, on-campus residents. Beginning next week, 1,250 tests for students will be available weekly, she said.
The University will also offer tests at the Emory Conference Center Hotel for faculty, staff and off-campus students who have been approved to return to campus, although it is unclear when such testing will be available. At the Oxford campus, 75 tests will be available per day.
Following a positive test result, on-campus students will enter isolation and move to the Emory Conference Center Hotel, where they will receive food, laundry, academic support and mental health services, Rabinovitz stated.
Trained disinfection teams will clean rooms where positive students resided. Off-campus students who test positive are advised to enter isolation in their place of residence and will be monitored by student health providers to ensure their symptoms are stable.
Additionally, students who test positive will need to identify “close contacts,” or anyone who has been within six feet of the individual without a face mask for more than 15 minutes. These contacts will receive a text and email message directing them to quarantine immediately and wait for further instructions from an Emory contact tracer.
“Contact tracing plays a vital role in slowing the COVID spread throughout our community,” Rabinovitz said. “Students, faculty and staff are asked to participate fully and promptly if they are identified as a close contact to someone who has tested positive.”
In an effort to stymie the virus’s spread, Vice President and Dean of Campus Life Enku Gelaye said the University will launch a public health campaign to “instill a sense of responsibility” in fighting the disease.
The campaign’s primary message: wear masks, wash hands and physically distance. Emory will later address “off-campus living, dining and transportation.”
Student Government Association President Lori Steffel (21B) encouraged students to follow social distancing guidelines, as colleges nationwide reverse plans and close their campuses.
“Say no to the invite to go to a party even if it’s only supposed to be 20 people,” Steffel said. “Social distance. It makes a difference. No one here is above these guidelines, myself included.”
Lydia Abedeen (21C) said that while she appreciates the transparency of a public dashboard, she is still worried about the enforcement of social distancing guidelines.
“Many of my RA friends are terrified they will be forced to be put in a situation where they will have to deal with reckless students and potentially get sick,” she said.