By Sammi St. Leger
Students and staff at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana work together to keep COVID-19 numbers stable as rates spike across college campuses.
COVID-19 numbers among students and staff nationwide grow with each day, creating concern for whether campuses will remain open. Colleges like University of Notre Dame experienced a two-week closure after a spike of 58 to 147 positive COVID-19 cases in a single day. As of Friday, Aug. 28, Notre Dame totals 537 cases. Other colleges see similar and higher numbers, with the Ohio State University reporting 495 (almost a 6 percent positivity rate) on Aug. 27 and University of Iowa hitting 607 cases during its first week of school. The University of Alabama reported surpassing 1,200 students and 166 staff members infected on Aug. 29.
As of Aug. 25, UIUC reached 120 cases. Today, University of Illinois has a positivity rate of 0.79 percent over the past seven days. The university has completed a total of 161,193 tests. Campus testing makes up 20 percent of tests administered in the State of Illinois and 1.5 percent of tests across the nation.
“When you put it into perspective, we are doing more testing than an entire state could be doing,” said Molly Mehta, COVID-19 wellness support associate and senior at UIUC.
Mehta cites this increased testing in conjunction with a vast array of safety measures as the defining reason UIUC numbers are comparatively lower than other universities.
“Our university is one of the only ones that have actually implemented a campuswide initiative to reduce COVID(-19) and stop the spread. We had made testing a mandatory aspect of being on campus and going out within the community. Even not only extending to campus buildings, but our local establishments and social gathering events also require the app to gain entrance, whereas other universities do not require a mandatory testing nor do other surrounding campuses buildings utilize the technology being implemented,” Mehta said.
On campus, Mehta’s work includes checking the Safer Illinois App created by the university for negative test results before allowing students and staff building access. Each shift, she is also responsible for making sure students and staff are wearing masks and practicing social distancing.
“When I heard about this COVID(-19) wellness support, I automatically knew that this was something I wanted to do, because I can use my voice and be a leader within my community to advocate for the safety of the people of Urbana-Champaign,” Mehta said.
Mehta said case numbers are expected to be higher because students are still moving to campus and bringing the virus from home. She remains positive about the future of on-campus instruction.
“It should be high now. The whole idea is for the trend to lower or stay low as we enter the school year,” Mehta said.