Tuesday, Dec. 8, 3 p.m.

The campus is experiencing a notable uptick in positive COVID-19 cases among students and some staff, which is believed to be tied to Thanksgiving gatherings.

There have been 50 new cases since Thanksgiving, compared to less than 10 the week before, according to University Health Services. This follows confirmation late last week of SARS CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, being found in the wastewater at both University Village, campus family housing in Albany, and the Clark Kerr campus residence halls. However, the vast majority of cases continue to occur in people living outside of campus housing units.

University Health Services has learned through its contact tracing efforts that the positive cases appear to be linked to Thanksgiving gatherings, with almost half being linked to travel, and COVID-19 spreading in the broader community. Cases linked to Thanksgiving events are likely to continue to emerge this week. 

Eight of the new 50 cases were among staff. Staff who are on campus are reminded to continue to practice physical distancing and other best practices during downtime, even with colleagues that you work with all the time. UHS has learned that in some cases the spread appears to be tied to staff taking lunch breaks together and letting down their guard during those times.  Taking off a mask to eat poses some risk: be sure to stay physically distanced, do not share utensils or food items, use hand hygiene before and after eating, and meet outside if weather allows rather than in a break room.

Overall, the percentage of COVID-19 positives in the campus community has remained under 2%, lower than in the surrounding community and the campus has not experienced any significant clusters of positive cases for some time. Still, the virus is currently spreading exponentially locally and nationwide: it is critical that we all remain vigilant.