Campus-wide testing is a critical piece of UofL's low positivity rate for COVID-19.
Campus-wide testing is a critical piece of UofL's low positivity rate for COVID-19.

The early grades on COVID testing are in, and the UofL community is doing its part to stay safe.

Two weeks into the semester, UofL has tested more than 14,200 students, faculty and staff and has seen only 215 positive cases, a positivity rate of less than 1.5%. In the past seven days, the rate has dropped below 1%. That compares to a community rate of about 9% and is well below that at many other colleges and universities. The university’s recent and cumulative testing rates are posted online. In response to student concerns, the dashboard will be updated several times per week.

“We are pleased that our students, faculty and staff have taken the COVID situation so seriously,” said Phillip Bressoud, executive director of campus health. “The fears so many had expressed have not materialized. Now it is up to us to continue the good work to ensure our semester can continue without many of the issues other schools are facing.”

Bressoud cited several reasons for the early success, including strong participation in COVID-19 training modules mandated for students, faculty and staff before they return to campus. To date, about 78% of faculty and staff and more than 52% of students have completed the training despite many taking classes or working remotely.

Other factors in the early success include:

  • Student, faculty and staff adherence to masking, physical distancing and hygienic practices
  • Early identification and isolation of individuals carrying the virus
  • The university’s contact tracing, which has helped identify and encourage testing among other individuals who may have been exposed
  • Limiting of large gatherings on and off campus

“We are particularly impressed with our student cooperation,” said Dean of Students Michael Mardis. “Thanks to the leadership of our Student Government Association and our many student organizations, we have experienced very few problematic gatherings that we’ve seen at other universities. The willingness of students to care for themselves and for one another has been key to our early success.”

COVID precautions are still necessary to prevent outbreak

Despite these results, however, health officials have warned that the pandemic is far from over.

Steven Stack, Kentucky’s commissioner of public health, has raised concern about this week’s Kentucky Derby and Labor Day activities and their effect on COVID in the community. Stack said people should stay “Healthy at Home” as much as they can, practice social distancing when out in public, wear a mask when near others and wash hands often. 

“If we all do these things, we have a much better chance for safer, healthier fall and winter holidays with family and friends,” Stack said. “These changes to our routines make an immense difference and save lives.”

Bressoud added a concern about the first home football game, Sept. 19. He urges students, faculty and staff to continue to be diligent in protecting against COVID-19.

“We know from watching other universities that it only takes one or two incidents to set off a COVID outbreak,” Bressoud said. “While we are so appreciative of our students and our community taking precautions so far, we need them to keep up the good work.”

“This is a team effort,” Mardis said. “Just like our football team needs all the players working together, our campus community needs everyone to do their part to ensure we can continue to have a safe and productive fall semester.”

John Drees is a 35-year veteran in the Office of Communications and Marketing. As vice president, communications and marketing, he works closely with the president, provost and other senior administrators, oversees the Office of Communications and Marketing, including media relations, marketing and brand, broadcast, social media, internal communication, crisis communication, visitor services and special events and activities. A former sports editor for the Voice Newspapers, he was a regular contributor to a variety of publications, including the Kentucky Sports Report and the Courier-Journal. A poor but enthusiastic golfer, he is an avid Cardinal sports fan. He also loves the Detroit Lions, so pity him.