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Tech releases COVID case count

Tuesday, September 22, 2020
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Update: Second and third paragraphs re-worded for extra clarity on the separate case reporting and testing efforts — Sept. 22

Louisiana Tech University has released its COVID-19 reporting dashboard, which reflects 97 positive cases of the novel coronavirus among students, faculty and staff during the first full week of the fall quarter.

The case count is fully composed of self-reported positive test results from Sept. 10-16. That span of time overlaps with the first three days of free testing offered by Tech and the Louisiana National Guard.

The Guard reported approximately 1,000 total tests performed last week among the Tech population and Ruston community at large, but two days of that testing came after Tech's first case reporting period.

Of those 97 cases, five are faculty and staff, 16 are students living on campus, and the remaining 76 are students living off campus. The number includes people who were not on campus at any point during the time they contracted the virus, but how many fall under that description is unknown.

In a Saturday update soon after the dashboard’s release, Tech President Les Guice said both the on- and off-campus cases come to less than 1% of the total student populations in each.

“By and large, our campus community members are doing a great job on both testing and reporting positive cases and direct contacts with individuals who have tested positive,” Guice said. “Members of our Tech family are displaying the culture of caring we’ve been talking so much about and are working to protect their colleagues.”

For comparison, Louisiana State University has reported 788 positive cases since Aug. 15, coming in at a little less than 2% of its nearly 40,000 population of students, faculty and staff.

Tech and all other Louisiana colleges and universities reportedly sent their case results to the Louisiana Department of Health late last week. The LDH is expected to publish its own dashboard with figures for each institution on Wednesday.

Tech officials said the university plans to update its dashboard at the end of each week after sending its numbers to the LDH. The next reporting window will cover Sept. 17-23.

Students and faculty are asked, but not required, to report their testing results to the university through established protocols.

Once a positive case is reported, that individual is asked to selfisolate until cleared, and if they are on campus, they may be relocated to designated living space for isolation. Volunteers immediately begin contact tracing to determine who else may need to quarantine based on being a close contact with the reported positive case.

All contact tracing volunteers are trained and required to sign a confidentiality agreement.

Guice said the results from the contact tracing, plus data from conferring with other universities, suggests that the majority of the virus spread on campus is coming through small, personal gatherings.

“We are hearing from other campuses that there are few large gatherings, and that small groups where individuals are comfortable and asymptomatic seem to be the leading pathway to transmission,” he said.

The free testing offered by Tech and the National Guard continues this week, running 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. through Friday at the Joe Aillet Stadium parking lot near the Argent Pavilion.