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News, University News

VP Carey: ‘We feel very good about where things are right now’

No indication that long weekend led to increase in COVID-19 exposures, no student positives from asymptomatic testing since Oct. 5

By
Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, October 15, 2020

The University has seen positive reports on the seasonal flu vaccination program and continued asymptomatic testing for community members on campus.

Executive Vice President of Planning and Policy Russell Carey ’91 and University Spokesperson Brian Clark discussed the seasonal flu, asymptomatic testing following the long weekend and the second week of activity level 2 in a conversation with The Herald Oct. 15.

Both students and employees have been taking advantage of the flu vaccination program, and Carey said reports about the program “have been very positive.” The flu shot is “important every year,” particularly so this year “because anything we can do to keep seasonal flu at bay certainly helps in terms of general health and safety (and) with regard to COVID,” Carey said.

The University is concerned about “higher volumes of seasonal flu” in the winter and colder weather causing more people to stay inside, where the risk of transmission for both the seasonal flu and COVID-19 is greater. “But the measures we are taking will hopefully help mitigate both of those risks,” Carey said. 

With regards to the potential double outbreak of both the seasonal flu and COVID-19, Carey said that “the strategy right now is to push the flu shot as much as possible” and to encourage people to take the same personal steps they are already taking to stop the spread of COVID-19. If the community can continue to do so and receive the flu vaccination, “we should be in good shape,” Carey said. 

In the last seven days, the University’s asymptomatic COVID-19 testing program has returned one positive case, which was from an employee, The Herald previously reported. There has not been a positive test result from a student through asymptomatic testing since Oct. 5. The University continues to watch for any situations with “significant amounts of contact or spread.” But they haven’t seen such a situation “in general and certainly not in the last week,” Carey said.

There is also no indication that activity over the long weekend led to increased exposure, Carey said. “Our testing volume went down a little bit over the long weekend, particularly Saturday and Sunday, but not much,” and Monday’s testing volume was in the normal range. Overall testing is “continuing to go well” and the University continues to have “very low positivity rates,” Carey added.

The University is “not keeping track of people in any particular way,” including whether or not they travel, and it did not do so over the long weekend. But greater scrutiny would be used “if we were seeing positive cases and in contact tracing it came out that they had traveled, for example,” Carey said.

Despite the recent national increase in cases, the University has no plans at this point to amend its policies. But Carey said the University is “following both national, and probably even more importantly, local and regional measures and metrics very carefully.”

Gov. Gina Raimondo held her most recent press briefing Oct. 15, and Carey said “we have paid a lot of attention to the briefings she has done this week.” Generally, measures discussed by the Governor are “very consistent with communications we have been sending out.”

The second week of hybrid classes has continued to go “very well,” Carey said. “Reports that I have been hearing, particularly through the Healthy Ambassadors program, have all been positive.” There have been “really no concerns at all this week.”

The University also continues to facilitate outdoor activities, including setting up tents across campus, Carey said. But “in early November, tents have to come down because of the possibility of snow. They are not meant for that time of year.” Still, Carey said “there will definitely be ongoing work to try and create opportunities outside,” but this becomes more difficult as the weather worsens. 

Carey reiterated that progress to this point has been positive. On campus, people are wearing masks, participating in the testing program and practicing social distancing. “We feel very good about where things are right now,” but “the commitment needs to be maintained in order for all of us to continue to feel good.”

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