56 new cases of COVID-19 confirmed at KU; 7-day positive rate inches higher

photo by: Conner Mitchell/Journal-World

A sign directing participants to a new drive-thru COVID-19 test clinic in the Naismith Hall parking lot on the University of Kansas campus.

The University of Kansas announced Tuesday that it has confirmed another 56 cases of COVID-19 since it last released data on Friday, bringing the university’s cumulative case total to 938.

In the most recent seven-day period for which data is available, Sept. 14-20, the KU community also tested positive at a slightly higher rate than the week prior — 6.85% compared to 4.32%, with roughly the same number of tests conducted.

KU also released data from its new drive-thru testing center in the parking lot of Naismith Hall, 1800 Naismith Drive, which allows the university to test up to 80 more people with COVID-19 symptoms each day. Those tests are in addition to the roughly 525-test capacity KU has weekly for random community testing and testing of asymptomatic people who were in direct contact with a confirmed positive case.

The drive-thru clinic didn’t come close to that 80-per-day capacity in its first week, though — it administered a total of 53 tests. Of those, 19 came back positive, for a rate of 35.9%. Watkins Health Center, the on-campus health care provider, also has the capacity for roughly 30 symptomatic tests per day, and from Sept. 14 to Sept. 20, 38 people tested positive out of 139 tests conducted — a rate of 27.3%.

That means overall, symptomatic patients at KU tested positive at a rate of 29.7% from Sept. 14 to Sept. 20.

Last week, KU acknowledged that there may be a small number of test orders included in the calculation of the symptomatic percent positive rate that don’t yet have results, which it attributed to its various testing partners each reporting data to the university differently.

KU officials did not issue a statement Tuesday about the new data. On Friday, though, the university unveiled a new 14-day forecasting model compiled by its Pandemic Medical Advisory Team to provide a short-term projection of what the pandemic situation on campus will look like if current trends continue. In announcing the model, Chancellor Douglas Girod acknowledged that predictive modeling with an unprecedented virus won’t be entirely precise.

“It’s important to recognize the limitations of any forecast of COVID-19 on a university campus. The reality is, there is no precedent for our current situation, meaning there is no pre-existing model or set of assumptions that neatly fit our circumstances,” he said in a campus message. “Like universities across the country, we are learning every day about transmission patterns and mitigation strategies, and we will continue to respond to new information accordingly.”

In Tuesday’s data, the cumulative case total of 938 had already surpassed what the model projected the case count would be on Oct. 2: 905.

The model also predicted that daily case counts would fall to around six new cases per day by Oct. 2. The university does not, however, release a daily case count as part of its COVID-19 dashboard. Given that there are some delays in reporting data, it’s not possible to accurately calculate an average daily case count from the data KU has provided.

Also on Tuesday, KU revealed that the current number of students in isolation and quarantine has fallen to 97 — 23 of whom are isolating, meaning they have the virus, and 74 of whom are quarantining, meaning they came in close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case. On Friday, that number totaled 120 students — 37 in isolation and 83 in quarantine.

KU will next release COVID-19 data on Friday, along with a new short-term forecast from the medical advisory team. Those forecasts will be distributed each Friday for the rest of the semester.

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