The Wheel publishes updates every Saturday about coronavirus spread within the Emory community, the University’s COVID-19 testing strategy and other related information. The Wheel also tracks on campus cases daily, which can be viewed on our homepage.
The latest cases
Emory reported 14 new cases in the past week, up from nine new cases the week before. Of the new cases, 11 were reported on campus, the greatest weekly increase in on-campus cases since the semester began. Seven cases were found in separate undergraduate residential halls. Five of the new cases were staff members and nine were students.
University officials have noticed the uptick but have not found a connection between cases yet, Executive Director of Emory Student Health Services Sharon Rabinovitz said. The University is expanding its communication to on-campus students that weekly testing is mandatory.
“We are trying to maximize the tests available because they are not all utilized at this point,” Rabinovitz said. “In the case that we have to [acquire] more, we can do that in the case of a cluster investigation.”
The University will continue to monitor the new cases. No single threshold of new cases will determine if the University will change its operating conditions, however.
The Oxford campus has experienced an uptick of three positive cases in the last week. The campus processes cases in a similar fashion to Atlanta campus and students are tested on a weekly basis.
“Oxford has done a tremendous job in response this past week … hopefully we caught this uptick early and there won’t be any impact of it,” Rabinovitz said.
Harris Hall residents were informed of a positive COVID-19 finding as a part of the University’s testing of wastewater according to an Oct. 2 email to residents. Individual student testing has not resulted in any positives to date, according to the email.
High-touch areas are being cleaned more often than before. In the event of a positive diagnosis, the Health Services and Building & Residential Services are contacted immediately to treat common spaces.
The University’s response to the virus is categorized by the Operating Condition Status, a framework to evaluate risk via visual communication that informs people about current COVID-19 conditions. The system was created by the Office of Critical Event Preparedness and Response (CEPAR) and uses a conglomeration of public health factors, including community spread, worker attrition and resources for tracing, to determine Emory’s current risk level.
The University has operated under the “Orange” status since Sept. 18, which indicates that the prevalence of COVID-19 transmission is elevated or trending unfavorably, with significant prevention policies in place and few people permitted in public areas on campus. Differences in status level impact gatherings and the likelihood of in-person classes.
“Right now we are less than 10 people with face coverings and time limits,” Rabinovitz added. Moving to the “Yellow” level would permit moderate density environments and easing of facility restrictions.
The status is evaluated by CEPAR every few weeks as trends change.
Flu vaccine and COVID testing
Emory’s current flu vaccine campaign has provided free vaccines to 1,020 students in September. The vaccine is available for students from now to Oct. 6 after completing their COVID-19 test at the Woodruff Physical Education Center, and from Oct. 8 to 21 for students being tested at the Emory Conference Center Hotel. From Oct. 12 to Nov. 20 students can make an appointment with Student Health Services to receive a vaccine.
“I think we can’t underestimate the impact that flu could have in the context of the pandemic,” Rabinovitz said, adding that getting vaccinated benefits “individuals as well as the health care system.”