COVID-19 cases down for fourth consecutive week, but sentinel testing plans still fall short

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CW / Hannah Saad

Kelby Hutchison | @thetallcwrepor1, Contributing Writer

This week the University of Alabama saw a 50% decrease in COVID-19 cases for the week of Sept. 25 to Oct. 1. Twenty-four students tested positive for COVID-19 this reporting period, but the the UA System COVID-19 Dashboard does not list the number of tests conducted or number of private tests reported to the University.    

 Sentinel testing numbers have improved with 487 people being tested from last week’s 371, but still fall short of the 3-5% of the student body that was the original intent of the program. Three of the 487 people who completed sentinel testing received positive results. 

To reach the original goal of the sentinel testing program, the University would have to more than double its efforts to reach its stated goal of 900 to 1,600 students tested each week.

Occupancy of the 486 isolation spaces on campus has fallen to 2.06%. The total number of isolation spaces designated for COVID-19 positive students has decreased by 32 from last week’s 518 available rooms. 

If COVID-19 cases continue to decrease this would signal a tail to the massive spike that the University saw five weeks ago. Dr. Deborah Birx, the coronavirus response coordinator for the White House Coronavirus Task Force, told UA officials to expect a “second or third wave” during an early September visit. 

The University has yet to see a second wave, but this weekend marks the first home game of the football season. Masks and social distancing will be required for spectators, and those who forget their masks will be provided one upon entry. 

In light of the declining caseload, some restrictions have been lifted. Tuscaloosa bars and restaurants are now able to operate during normal business hours, but still cannot be at full capacity. Tailgating is still forbidden at this time, and the stadium will be limited to 20% capacity.

Faculty and staff positive test results have fallen to nine from last week’s 15. This brings the total to 75 faculty members who have tested positive for the virus since the beginning of the semester. 

Coleman Coliseum will continue to be a testing site for symptomatic and exposed students. Students can schedule an appointment Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. each day, according to UA News.