Virginia Tech and Radford University find fewer cases of COVID-19 after more testing. At least 98 COVID-19 events emerged during the first two weeks of Radford University classes last fall. Radford is reporting 16 new cases among students and workers now, two weeks into the spring semester.
According to a Roanoke Times data review, Virginia Tech and Radford are seeing lesser cases of coronavirus relative to the same point last fall. Though research capability is growing, total cases are down over the same timeframe this spring.
Tech President Tim Sands said Wednesday that COVID-19 tested positive for about 1 percent of students returning to campus. That is relative to a rate of virtually zero before fall classes started. Infectious disease researchers have said that colleges ought to do more research and plan to avoid campus outbreaks.
This year, according to a Virginia Department of Health dashboard, only Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, has experienced a coronavirus outbreak. Statewide, from 16 colleges that submitted data this year to a separate public dashboard hosted by the schools themselves, at least 1,134 students and staff have tested positive for COVID-19.
On Tuesday, Radford announced that since tests started Jan. 13, 31 students and five staff have tested positive for COVID-19, the school’s dashboard reports. Before spring classes started, the university logged 20 cases and another 16 in the two weeks following.
Radford reported 98 cases during the same timeframe last fall, and 195 more cases happened the following week. (In the fall, before school, the university did not report any cases.)
As of Tuesday, Radford had tested 2,294 students this spring, slightly over 30% of all the exams is conducted in the fall. In the first two weeks of school, the university’s fall dashboard reveals it performed 1,705 examinations.
This spring, according to Caitlyn Scaggs, a university spokeswoman, Radford is evaluating students without symptoms, a move from the fall. Students scoring positive at off-campus locations are not counted on the dashboard of the department, she said. Although ramping up research, Virginia Tech has also seen a decline in events.
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Tech reported 180 cases within the first two weeks of the spring semester and performed 7,802 studies, according to its COVID-19 dashboard, with an overall positivity rate of 2.3 percent.
Last fall, 484 positive cases out of 2,803 studies, an average positive rate of 17.3 percent, occurred in the first two weeks of classes at Tech.
A Tech spokeswoman, Mark Owczarski, noted that the university ended the semesters somewhat differently, which may make data comparisons tricky. Before classes began, the university checked all on-campus students last fall. Any students could have come to campus this semester after the start of school when it was online for the first week.
However, a review of the 30 days since Tech first started studying in both semesters shows a common theme of more experiments done and fewer instances found.
Tech found 357 positive tests out of 11,071 tests from Aug. 3 to Sept. 2. Between Jan. 4 and Feb. 2, 249 positive tests out of 11,546 tests were recorded by Tech.
Last month, Dr. Noelle Bissell, chief of the New River Health District, said she did not expect the region’s COVID-19 cases to escalate dramatically as students return, as case numbers did last fall.
She said students did a decent job overall in compliance with public health guidelines and that in the fall, students who were not as diligent had already contracted COVID-19. In a message published Wednesday, Sands said that 10% of on-campus students returning this spring had already tested positive for COVID-19, and so they did not need to be tested.
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