UI says it won’t test students moving into residence halls for COVID-19, announces five more cases in Athletics Department

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A typical room in the University of Iowa’s Elizabeth Catlett Residence Hall. Friday, July 28, 2017. — Zak Neumann

The University of Iowa announced on Monday it will not test students for COVID-19 before they move into residence halls.

“Poorly administered mass testing can result in damaged or inconclusive results and excessive false negative,” the university said.

In a statement posted on its COVID-19 information page, UI said that although such testing “may provide some comfort for families,” the CDC recommends against performing one-time tests, because of the limited nature of the information a one-time test provides and the “significant resources” such tests require.

UI said it is “prepared to test symptomatic individuals and asymptomatic individuals with a known COVID-19 exposure in coordination with Johnson County Public Health.”

“Younger people are at lower risk for serious COVID outcomes but are disproportionately responsible for asymptomatic transmission,” according to Alison Galvani, the Burnett and Stender Families Professor of Epidemiology at the Yale School of Public Health and the Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Modeling and Analysis.

Galvani led a study on so-called “silent spreaders” — asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic people infected with COVID-19 who spread the virus to others — that was published last month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. The results of the study suggest silent spreaders may be responsible for half the COVID-19 cases in the United States.

Iowa State University will test all students living in on-campus housing for COVID-19 before they move in. “This impacts about 9000 students,” ISU said.

UI Athletics has had a testing program for athletes and staff since the end of May, before athletes began returning to campus in June. On Monday, the department said five people tested last week were confirmed as having COVID-19.

Since the testing program began, UI Athletics has reported the results of 603 tests. Thirty-two of the tests have been positive.

On July 28, the men’s basketball teams suspended workouts for two weeks after two players tested positive for COVID-19. During a video conference on Sunday, Coach Fran McCaffery said a third player had tested positive.

“Aside from the men’s basketball update, Iowa has not provided a testing breakdown by sport, or said if the positive cases are from student-athletes, coaches, or staff members,” the Daily Iowan reported. “But head coach Kirk Ferentz confirmed July 16 that the football program has had individuals test positive for COVID-19.”

In its statement on students returning campus, UI said it will be issuing protective equipment kits to students. According to the university, “Each kit will contain two reusable cloth face coverings, two disposable masks, one face shield, and one small bottle of hand sanitizer.”


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Students who live in on-campus housing will receive kits as part of their move-in process. Information about how other students can pick up their kits is available online.

The view from the lounge on the 12th floor of the Elizabeth Catlett Residence Hall. Friday, July 28, 2017. — Zak Neumann/Little Village

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