Westminster College reported 20 new COVID-19 cases Friday, the highest weekly increase the school has seen since the beginning of the semester. This brings the total to 71 reported cases with 20 people currently in isolation.
The latest weekly report accounts for roughly 28% of all COVID-19 cases at Westminster during the Fall semester. That means the 20 cases reported Friday represent over a quarter of Westminster’s total coronavirus cases since July.
The college releases COVID-19 updates each week, reporting on active coronavirus cases within the Westminster community. However, not all these cases are reported on campus, according to Campus Safety Director Bri Buckley.
“The majority of reported cases over the last two weeks are not from people testing positive on campus,” Buckley told The Forum in an email. “What we’re likely seeing is the impact of the overall COVID-19 activity in the state impacting our campus community.”
The numbers come on the same day Utah reported its highest single-day increase with 2,292 COVID-19 cases Friday.
With the increase of cases, The Forum received questions from the campus community. Here’s a breakdown of what we know so far:
Is there a particular reason for the increase in cases?
It’s unclear why Westminster experienced a sudden increase in coronavirus cases. It may be a result of increased testing among the campus community or because of the spike seen statewide, according to Buckley.
The reason cases are increasing may also be because the college has increased its testing for both symptomatic and asymptomatic cases, according to President Beth Dobkin.
“About half of the individuals that have tested positive are asymptomatic,” President Dobkin told The Forum Monday. “So that means, really, we are doing a considerable public health service by catching cases that would otherwise go undetected.”
Over the course of the Fall semester, Westminster has conducted independent COVID testing and contact tracing to contain the spread of the disease on campus. This has been a significant contribution to the state at large, according to the president.
Why did isolation numbers not increase?
The college asks members of the Westminster community to report instances of exposure or positive diagnoses. According to guidelines from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, those who test positive for the coronavirus must isolate for at least 10 days.
“For symptomatic people, they isolate for 10 days since the day they developed symptoms,” said Bri Buckley, campus safety director. “For asymptomatic people, they isolate [for] 10 days since the date of their positive test.”
This is different from quarantine, which is required when an individual is exposed to someone who has tested positive. When exposed, individuals must quarantine for 14 days from the initial date of exposure.
As of Friday, there are roughly 20 active cases in isolation — which caused some confusion among campus on why this number hasn’t increased from the 12 active cases reported Oct. 23.
If it’s only been a week, wouldn’t those numbers have increased? Not necessarily, according to Buckley.
“Sometimes these reports come in part way or towards the end of an individual’s isolation period,” Buckley said. “Which means that over the course of the week they are no longer ‘active’ cases.”