It’s important not to confuse positivity rate with what percentage of cases “UK students” represent in the county’s overall number of positive cases, according to the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department’s information.
We are calculating positivity rate by dividing positive cases by total tested, so it is important to have those parameters in looking at these numbers. Another important set of variables is total tested relative to total screened, which we are using to driving high-risk students to test.
Our positivity rate—which includes those tested both through mandatory testing and what has been sent to us from students who tested off campus—has been consistently below 2 percent as part of our Phase 1 testing protocol. We are in the process now of completing retesting among a smaller subset of our student population—students in Fraternity and Sorority Life—who showed higher positivity rates during our first round of mandatory testing. That retesting and analysis will be completed soon and, clearly, will help inform our next steps with respect to further testing and mitigation strategies.
As for Fayette County’s numbers, we work closely each day with the health department on contact tracing and other issues, but a number of issues need more exploration and analysis:
- How many tests produced Fayette County’s numbers? The total number tested is necessary to calculate a positivity rate.
- What was the timeframe for these tests? Their charts seem to indicate this goes back to March as earlier reports did, in which case those who tested positive last semester would have already recovered. Additionally, seniors who tested positive last year would have since graduated.
- How many of those students actually come to campus? How many live in Fayette County in another home or with family and don’t come on campus at all? Our focus in testing has always been – and will continue to be – students who will be on campus for any reason.
Finally, the factors driving our decision revolve around a number of issues that include incidence numbers, but also look at: supply of PPE, critical care beds, isolation and quarantining space, the capacity to provide a residential research experience, and the ability to provide other core student support services such as housing and dining. We remain in a good space in all of those factors, and would have to know more about Fayette County’s numbers to comment further.
We saw the Bloomberg story today, but haven’t had time to digest it completely. However, we have known from research we’ve conducted that students perform better – academically and socially – if they live on campus. They have higher retention rates and graduation rates. Further, there has been a recent study from the CDC that points to higher levels of mental health issues among young people during this time, another piece of information that may underscore – or correlate with – the importance of the residential college experience.