COVID-19 testing shows no sign of outbreaks as students return to local university campuses

Coronavirus

CLEVELAND (WJW) – Universities in Northeast Ohio are starting classes this week with new plans and procedures for COVID-19 testing in place amid the pandemic. So far, there are no signs of outbreaks on campuses in the region.

Case Western Reserve University is testing all students. Since testing began on Aug. 8, the university said 2,671 students have been tested, with 10 testing positive. Students who test positive are isolated for 14 days, with meals delivered and support from University Health & Counseling.

“I actually got tested as soon as I came to campus,” said freshman Lucia Mancha. “I feel like they’re doing the absolute best they can with the circumstances.”

Baldwin Wallace University said it is testing more than 1,000 students as they arrive on campus, including all students who live on campus. A university spokesperson said more than 99 percent of tests have come back negative.

“After arrival test results are in, our plan is to conduct random “surveillance” testing of students, faculty and staff using a representative sample that would yield a positivity rate. Of course, we will also have testing available for any student who is symptomatic and remain focused on a wide range of mitigation strategies,” Baldwin Wallace University spokesperson Shawn Smith Salamone said in a statement.

He said the university planned to share test results through an online dashboard starting Thursday, with weekly updates.

Public universities in Northeast Ohio are only testing students who are symptomatic and those in close contact with them. They have also set aside residence hall space for students who need to isolate.

A spokesperson for the University of Akron said there have been 11 reported cases on campus since July 8, and only one case is currently active, with the person in isolation off campus. The University said it planned to release its testing data through an online portal in the coming days.

Cleveland State University students must take a daily online health assessment before entering campus, and students, staff and faculty were asked to sign a social contract regarding responsible behavior related to the pandemic, according to the leader of CSU’s pandemic response planning team.

“Things are going exceptionally well. As I walk the campus, people are taking this seriously, they’re wearing masks, they’re doing appropriate physical distancing,” said Forrest Faison III, MD, CSU’s Senior Vice President for Research and Innovation and Chief Healthcare Strategy Officer.

He said the university is offering rapid testing to all students who are symptomatic and has had to administer “very few tests,” although he said the university is not releasing data on test results. The university has hired five contact tracers.

“We have, ready to go, plans to draw down operations, shift more fully to remote educational delivery if we need to,” Faison said.

Kent State University, which is also not testing all students but is offering tests to students who are symptomatic, said it is considering plans for continued surveillance testing.

University leaders said they have plans in place to scale back on-campus operations if necessary in case of an outbreak.

Gov. Mike DeWine said Tuesday that off-campus parties and gatherings remained a concern.

“I’m worried,” DeWine said. “Ultimately, it’s going to come down to what the students do.”

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