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University sees initial positive cases since reopening, announces new off-campus protocol

| Thursday, August 13, 2020

Notre Dame recorded its first positive COVID-19 cases after beginning classes Monday, an email to the University community said Thursday.

The majority of cases have been traced to a single gathering off-campus, and students involved provided the University necessary information for contact tracing.

“The students involved were forthcoming in sharing information with contact tracers,” the email said. “They shared who they interacted with, when and for how long. They also indicated individuals at the gathering were both outside and inside, together for some time, not wearing masks, in a crowded space and drinking.”

According to the Notre Dame COVID-19 Dashboard, seven individuals tested positive for COVID-19 as of Wednesday. An additional four individuals tested positive Tuesday.

In light of these initial cases, the University announced a few new updates. While off-campus undergraduate students who test positive were previously expected to isolate in their own apartments or homes, the University will now require the off-campus undergraduate students who test positive and who live with other students to isolate in the University’s units.

“Regardless of location, students must follow the University’s guidelines for quarantine and isolation,” the email said. “Students who fail to comply face emergency involuntary withdrawal from the University, and may also be referred to the University conduct process.”

Students who test positive must provide details with contact tracers, and the information shared will not be used for disciplinary reasons.

“The amount of time you spent with someone, when and under what conditions determines whether you will be considered a close contact and need to be tested,” the email said. “Casual exposure, especially if you are wearing a mask and practicing physical distancing, means you probably do not need a test and will not need to quarantine.”

The University will provide PCR and antigen tests for patients who need to be tested. While diagnostic PCR tests result within 48 hours, antigen tests result in less than 30 minutes. Antigen tests though “cannot definitively determine if a patient is negative for COVID-19,” the email said. The tests are effective for identifying positive cases.

University Health Service (UHS) medical providers will review the daily health checks to determine whether an individual needs a diagnostic test.

“Our providers order tests based on either primary symptoms or two or more days of secondary symptoms of COVID-19,” the email said. “When the clinical circumstances warrant it, UHS providers err on the side of ordering a test.”

The University will also expand a testing protocol which will decrease quarantine time from 14 to as few as 7 days, the email said.

“This protocol only applies to asymptomatic patients and involves a combination of PCR and antigen tests,” the email said.

Vice president for student affairs Erin Hoffmann Harding and vice president for campus safety and University operations Mike Seamon urged the community to continue following the guidelines to ensure the safety and health of students, faculty and staff.

“Together, through both encouragement and holding one another accountable, we can avoid another incident that places our community at risk,” the email said.

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