KU reports 841 total COVID-19 cases, says community tested positive at over 10% in last week

photo by: Conner Mitchell/Journal-World

A social distancing sign sits at a bus stop on the University of Kansas campus.

The University of Kansas’ total number of COVID-19 cases has risen to 841, the school announced Tuesday afternoon — an increase of 42 cases since Friday, when testing data was last released.

Out of 779 total tests conducted between Sept. 7 and Sept. 13, 85 members of the KU community tested positive for the virus, for a positivity rate of 10.9%, the highest rate since KU began releasing data. Part of the increase, though, is likely due to a shift in KU’s testing policy. Instead of testing all students, faculty and staff members, as in the initial round of testing, the university is now focusing only on random population samples, people who are showing symptoms of COVID-19 and people who came in close contact with someone who tested positive for the virus.

The data from the past week does overlap slightly with KU’s data from Friday, which covered testing from Sept. 3 to Sept. 9. Over that time, KU said it conducted 915 total tests, which yielded 70 positive results — a rate of 7.65%.

KU also indicated that the rate of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 Douglas County residents fell from 191 on Friday to 124 on Tuesday.

As part of KU’s COVID-19 dashboard, which is updated on Tuesdays and Fridays, the university also reports the number of clinic visits to Watkins Health Center, the on-campus health care provider; how many COVID-19 nasal swab tests are ordered for those showing virus symptoms; and how many of those tests return with positive results.

Tuesday’s update indicated that from Sept. 7 to Sept. 13, 210 people visited Watkins, 146 were tested for COVID-19, and 39 tested positive.

That data yields a positivity rate of 26.7%. That is a sizable jump from when KU last released data. At that point, people being tested at the health clinic were testing positive at a rate of just more than 17%. It is possible, though, that the current positive test rate is even higher at Watkins. KU acknowledged that the results from Watkins were incomplete. Several tests that were included in Tuesday’s report had not yet received results from the lab. Depending on how KU accounts for those tests, the positivity rate could be higher, and in some cases significantly so.

“The Watkins data does include a small number of test orders that do not yet have results,” KU spokesperson Erinn Barcomb-Peterson told the Journal-World in an email. “This data is presented in the way it is reported to us, and we do have to deal with some delays in testing results when we report out data.”

Barcomb-Peterson told the Journal-World that LabCorp, the outside laboratory that processes the tests for KU, is currently averaging three to seven days to return test results, but she said the impact on the positive test rate is “negligible over time.”

Without knowing the number of incomplete tests included in the most recent report, however, the Journal-World wasn’t able to determine how much higher the positive testing rate might be.

Barcomb-Peterson also told the Journal-World that Watkins has not yet had to turn away people requesting a COVID-19 test, but that it may have to order next-day testing if the day’s schedule is full. Watkins’ capacity for daily test orders is listed at 30 people.

KU on Tuesday also reported a slight increase in the number of students in on-campus quarantine and isolation housing since Friday. On Friday, 100 total students — 22 in isolation and 78 in quarantine — were documented, and on Tuesday, that had risen to 104 students, 23 of whom were isolating and 81 of whom were in quarantine.

The university’s next scheduled release of COVID-19 data will come on Friday. KU is also set to begin releasing a weekly short-term forecast from its Pandemic Medical Advisory Team this week, but has not yet said what day those forecasts will be distributed.

Contact Conner Mitchell

Have a story idea, news or information to share? Contact KU reporter Conner Mitchell:


Welcome to the new LJWorld.com. Our old commenting system has been replaced with Facebook Comments. There is no longer a separate username and password login step. If you are already signed into Facebook within your browser, you will be able to comment. If you do not have a Facebook account and do not wish to create one, you will not be able to comment on stories.