Almost 800 cases of COVID-19 have been reported among UI students this week

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A mask appeared on the face of Irving Weber in downtown Iowa City, Thursday, March 12. — Izabela Zaluska/Little Village

The University of Iowa began its Friday COVID-19 update with an optimistic-sounding statement.

“Following a disappointing spike in COVID-19 cases last week, both Johnson County and the University of Iowa are seeing an improvement in the number of daily positive cases,” the statement on the UI COVID-19 information page said. “UI Health Care administrators say the numbers have started to plateau.”

It linked to a story published by the Daily Iowan on Thursday in which Jorge Salinas, head of epidemiology at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, said there’s been “a relative plateau” in the increase of COVID-19 cases over “the past four or five days.”

“The numbers have decreased some — some could see that as good news — they have stopped increasing. Over the past four or five days we have seen a relative plateau,” Salinas said. “The number is still somewhat stable, not growing, but still at a relatively high number. A 100 a day is still a meaningful number.”

At 10 a.m. on Friday, the Iowa Department of Public Health was reporting another 132 residents of Johnson County had tested positive for COVID-19 during the previous 24 hours. As it has all week, IDPH’s official 14-day average positivity for COVID-19 tests in the county increased on Friday. At 10 a.m., it was 24.6 percent. On Friday of last week, Johnson County’s 14-day average was 19.5 percent, according to IDPH.

Ten paragraphs in, the update informed readers that another 253 UI students had self-reported testing positive for the virus since Wednesday. On Wednesday, UI said 220 students had self-reported cases of COVID-19 since Monday. On Monday, it said 326 students had self-reported having the disease since the previous Friday.

Between Friday, Aug. 28 and Friday, Sept. 4, a total of 799 UI students self-reported cases of COVID-19 to the university. During the same period, nine staff members did the same.

Since UI began collecting this information on Aug. 18, a total of 1,395 students and 19 staff member have disclosed positive tests.

The Daily Iowan story the UI COVID-19 information page linked to on Friday was titled, “Students headed home from the UI may risk spreading COVID-19 to family members.”

“I am not very concerned about the possibility of them going places and bringing [COVID-19], because the incidence of [COVID-19] in Iowa City and Johnson County is so high, one of the highest in the country,” Salinas is quoted as saying. “The greatest risk is actually of them carrying [COVID-19] to wherever they go.”

The statewide surge in COVID-19 cases continued on Friday, with IDPH reporting another 1,183 Iowans had tested positive for the virus between 10 a.m. on Thursday and 10 a.m. on Friday. It is only the fourth time since COVID-19 was confirmed in the state on March 8 that more than 1,000 cases have been reported in a 24-hour period.

The newly reported cases on Friday morning included 37 residents of Linn County.

At 10 a.m. on Friday, the department reported a total of 1,137 Iowans have died from the virus, an increase of three since the same time on Thursday.


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