Campus News Health & Wellness

UGA achieves new high in surveillance testing

The University of Georgia set a record high for participation in its COVID-19 surveillance program, with 2,029 individuals tested between the Legion Field surveillance site and pop-up locations across campus for the week of October 12 – 18.  Of those tested, 25 individuals were positive, for a positivity rate of 1.23%.

This marks the second straight week of strong participation in surveillance testing.

Of the 84 total positive cases reported through the University’s DawgCheck system for that period, 74 were students, eight were staff and two were faculty.

“The positivity rate for surveillance testing is the second lowest that we have recorded for a full week since students returned for the Fall Semester, so obviously, I am pleased with these test results, particularly coming after two home football games,” said Dr. Garth Russo, executive director of the University Health Center and chair of UGA’s Medical Oversight Task Force. “These results demonstrate that the measures we are taking to promote the health and safety of our faculty, staff and students—both as an institution and on an individual basis—are working.”

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 faculty who are teaching large in-person classes, graduate students, undergraduates living in on-campus housing and undergraduates living off-campus.

Over the past two weeks UGA Student Affairs, with private support from the President’s Venture Fund, has launched a campaign to maintain 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.

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.

Information on the UHC website also includes supplemental data on the experiences of students who have received positive tests. This information is obtained through a follow-up survey sent through the DawgCheck system 14 days following a positive test. The responses allow UGA’s Student Care and Outreach unit to provide additional support to students who have ongoing concerns.

The follow-up data for the week of September 28 – October 4 were remarkably similar to previous weeks: no student respondents reported hospitalizations, and 92% reported that they had fully recovered from their symptoms.

“I think the information from this past week is very encouraging,” said President Jere W. Morehead. “I commend our students for stepping up their participation in our surveillance testing program and for their enhanced efforts to wear their masks and maintain social distancing. We must continue to work together on campus and in the community, as COVID-19 remains an ongoing threat.”

The University is maintaining a stock of 500 rooms on- and off-campus to accommodate isolation and quarantine housing, as needed. At present, 8% of the housing stock is in use.

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