Campus News

Participation in surveillance testing at UGA rebounds

Participation in surveillance testing for COVID-19 at the University of Georgia has rebounded to near-record highs, while UGA’s positivity rate remains low. A total of 1,944 volunteers were tested at the Legion Field surveillance site last week—an increase of 42% over the preceding week—with only 28 individuals, or 1.44%, testing positive.

Of the total 92 positive cases reported through the University’s DawgCheck system for the week of Oct. 5-12, 80 were students, 10 were staff and two were faculty.

“We are really pleased to see such a significant increase in the number of individuals being tested this week,” said Dr. Garth Russo, executive director of the University Health Center and chair of UGA’s Medical Oversight Task Force. “It can be easy, when cases have dropped as much as they have from the start of the semester, to let down your guard and become complacent. We can’t afford to let that happen.”

UGA Student Affairs, with private support from the President’s Venture Fund, has launched a campaign to motivate interest in the free surveillance testing program. Incentives include complimentary coffee while waiting in line to be tested, food coupons, T-shirts, face coverings and other items. In addition, the University Health Center is introducing pop-up, saliva-based testing locations across campus in conjunction with its longstanding partnership with the College of Pharmacy to deliver on-site flu vaccines.

This week, pop-up locations are being offered at the University’s Health Sciences Campus and Facilities Management Division, and next week, they will be provided at the Georgia Center.

The surveillance testing site at Legion Field can accommodate 500 individuals per day, often for walk-up appointments.  The University Health Center also is incorporating a randomization protocol, through which specific categories of individuals are invited to participate. These groups have included 700 faculty who are teaching large in-person classes, graduate students, undergraduates living in on-campus housing, and undergraduates living off-campus.

The University reports test results on a weekly basis each Wednesday on the University Health Center website: https://uhs.uga.edu/healthtopics/covid-19-health-and-exposure-updates. The data consist of tests from four sources: (1) tests conducted through UGA’s surveillance testing program; (2) tests conducted at the University Health Center; (3) reports from Athens-area medical providers; and (4) reports of positive tests from other sources.

“I am encouraged to see participation in our surveillance program increase, and I want to thank everyone on campus who stepped up to make that happen,” said President Jere W. Morehead. “As we continue to take precautions against the spread of COVID-19, I want to remind all of our faculty, staff and students of the importance of getting a flu shot, particularly this year. At the same time, let’s also be diligent in following the rules for social distancing, wearing our masks and washing our hands. COVID-19 remains a serious threat to our community, but together, we are flattening the curve on our campus.”

The University is maintaining a stock of 500 rooms on- and off-campus to accommodate isolation and quarantine housing, as needed. At present, only 7% of the housing stock is in use.

The University of Georgia community consists of nearly 50,000 students, faculty and staff.