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University expands health check, links outbreak to Aug. 9 off-campus party

| Sunday, August 16, 2020

Read our Tracking COVID-19 at Notre Dame update here, which will be updated daily.

Sunday morning provost Marie Lynn Miranda, executive vice president Shannon Cullinan  and vice president for student affairs Erin Hoffmann Harding wrote to the campus community to provide updates on surveillance testing, contact tracing and daily health checks.

According to the email, the turnaround time for the University’s PCR coronavirus tests have been one to two days, and this time frame is expected to continue. The email said the University has a deep inventory of both PCR tests and antigen tests.

“We have never run out of tests, and decisions around who and when to test are driven by our medical team. The University has not and would not deny a medically recommended test because of cost,” the email said.

Diane Park | The Observer

The email said if a student or faculty member tests positive elsewhere, they should report the positive test to University health services.

In regard to contact tracing, the email said those who have tested positive have been cooperative and forthcoming with information, citing rumors of students’ behavior as false.

“Reports that students are dodging our calls are inconsistent with the data we have collected on the contract tracing efforts,” the email said. “Contact tracing is critical to containing the spread of COVID-19, so please help us continue to reinforce the importance of cooperating fully and promptly with this process.”

Those identified as close contacts are required to quarantine in their home or University-provided housing. Quarantined individuals will receive a PCR test on day four of quarantine and if the test is positive, they will move into isolation. If the test is negative, the individual will receive an antigen test on day seven and if the result is negative, they will be released.

The email also addressed an update to the daily health check, which will now include a yellow pass option — in addition to red and green passes — to identify those with severe symptoms of COVID-19 and those with other symptoms.

A red pass indicates “those who indicate they are exhibiting one of the big three symptoms (fever >100.4, shortness of breath, or loss of sense of taste or smell)” while a yellow pass indicates “those who exhibit secondary symptoms (e.g., unexplained new sore throat, headache, body aches, etc.).” Individuals who receive a red pass will be automatically scheduled for a test while those with a yellow pass will be directed to a telehealth appointment to potentially schedule a test.

The email announced the next round of surveillance testing will begin this week. The surveillance plan has been created in consultation with the St. Joseph County health department.

“If you are selected to participate in surveillance testing, you are obligated to make yourself available for testing. Anyone found to be positive through our surveillance testing will enter our isolation protocols, and we will begin the contact tracing process,” the email said.

The leaders addressed the spike in cases over the past couple of days. According to the email, yesterday another cohort of cases was linked to an off-campus party held Aug. 9..

“In public health, we sometimes talk about the rings that surround an initial infection,” the email said. “Our contact tracing reveals that there is a ring clearly associated with those who attended each of these off-campus events. Secondary rings have now occurred among those in close contact with those in the first ring. We should all be exercising every precaution possible to prevent the spread to a third ring.”

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