CORONAVIRUS

Iowa State finds 66 students with COVID-19 upon move-in

Half of the positive cases are isolating on campus

A tub of hand sanitizer is available for use this week at the Iowa State University Memorial Union in Ames. The universi
A tub of hand sanitizer is available for use this week at the Iowa State University Memorial Union in Ames. The university on Friday reported 66 students tested positive for the coronavirus out of the 3,037 tested as they moved into ISU residence halls. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)

Of the more than 3,000 students Iowa State University has tested for COVID-19 in its first week of residence hall move-in, 66 have tested positive — half of whom are isolating in reserved space on campus and half of whom opted to return home to complete their period of isolation.

Iowa State is making all of the 9,000-some students planning to live in its residence halls or campus apartments get a COVID-19 test before moving in — with results processed in the campus-based Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory and coming back within 24 hours.

This week’s 66 positive cases represent 2.2 percent of the 3,037 students tested at Lied Recreation Center before getting their room keys and moving into either a residence hall or campus apartment.

The goal of the testing is to give Iowa State a “snapshot” and “baseline” as tens of thousands students descend on the Ames campus for a hybrid fall semester that begins Aug. 17 and prioritizes in-person instruction.

The test results provide ISU with information it can use to mitigate the coronavirus spread by employing contact tracing aimed at quickly identifying and isolating students, according to Kristen Obbink, ISU’s COVID-19 public health coordinator.

The university has reserved residence hall space for isolating positive students and quarantining those who’ve had contact with positive cases.

“The Veterinary Diagnostic Lab enabled us to greatly reduce turnaround time for results, which means we can achieve early intervention and mitigation with positive cases,” Obbink said.

Move-in testing at Lied Recreation will continue Monday through Aug. 16. .

ISU also is reporting its test results to the Iowa Department of Public Health.

The University of Iowa and the University of Northern Iowa are not testing students before they move onto campus.

UI officials have said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not recommend it because one-time tests provide only a snapshot and can miss cases, giving students a false sense of security.

UI officials also have said one-time testing requires significant resources — including supplies, protective equipment and the space to conduct mass testing.

“Poorly administered mass testing can result in damaged or inconclusive results and excessive false negatives,” according to a campuswide message earlier this week.

UI officials said they’re focusing on “CDC-recommended infection prevention measures” like reduced campus density, modified classrooms, mandated face coverings, and enhanced cleaning.

UI move-in

In a campus message Friday, UI officials offered more details about that campus’ move-in process, which begins Aug. 14 — 10 days before the fall semester brings students back for in-person learning.

To promote social distancing, the university is allowing just eight to 20 students to move in per building per hour, with a maximum of two guests to help. Everyone entering a residence hall must wear a mask, and this year no volunteers will be allowed to help students unload their vehicles.

Carts will be disinfected, as will restrooms and high-touch surfaces.

Anyone who decides residence hall living is not a safe option for them this fall should contact University Housing and Dining before Aug. 15.

Fall testing

All three of the campuses are requiring COVID-19-specific training of their students, faculty and staff before the semester begins.

And although the UI and UNI are not requiring tests before students move in, all three universities are making testing available throughout the semester for students, faculty and staff who have symptoms or who have had contact with someone who has tested positive.

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Iowa State’s Obbink in a news release said her campus is continuing to evaluate “other testing strategies for the fall semester and may modify the approach based on advances in testing technology and availability of testing supplies.”

Comments: (319) 339-3158; vanessa.miller@thegazette.com

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