College communities eyed as rate of positive Covid-19 tests climbs

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The Delaware Division of Public Health is looking into the reasons for the increase in the percentage of positive Covid-19 tests.

The closely watched figure has risen from 4.2 percent range early in September to 7.1 percent as of Monday.

“While we have not identified any particular trend or cause/effect as it relates to the increased percentage of persons who tested positive, positive cases among the younger population do seem to be trending the most,” said Jen Brestel,spokesperson for the Division of Public Health.

Brestel said the division is “paying particularly close attention to and working closely with our institutions of higher learning, such as the University of Delaware and Delaware State University to mitigate the spread of infection among the student populations.”

The state is also seeing cases linked to social gatherings.

Gov. John Carney said at the weekly Covid-19 press event that the state is focusing on college communities in Newark and Dover. The effort includes meeting with college officials on strategies.

Areas of Delaware seeing an increase in cases includeBear, Newark, New Castle, Wilmington, and Dover, Brestel stated.

UD and DSU have employed varied Covid-19 testing strategies.

The University of Delaware required all incoming students to undergo tests before arriving on campus. UD uses a dashboard that reports positive cases and according to Delaware Emergency Management Director A.J. Schall performs about 1,000 tests a week.

DSU schedules regulartesting of students. and plans to add a dashboard in the coming weeks.

Another factor that plays into the higher positive test rate is a decline in the number of people being tested.

Fewer tests can skew the percentage of positive cases, Brestel noted, with Carney acknowledging the same in the Tuesday press event.

“Those at higher risk for infection (having symptoms, close contact with a positive case, etc.) would more likely get tested, so the tested population could be skewed toward positive cases,” Brestel said.

Delaware Emergency Management Agency Schall said the number of weekly tests has moved down from about 15,000 a week to 10,000.

Unlike some states, Delaware does not limit its free testing to those with symptoms or people who may have been exposed to the virus.

This week, the state shifted from drive-up tests to permanent locations with longer hours and rolled out a mobile phone app that anonymously alerts individuals that someone within a six-feet distance has tested positive. Some “roadshow” mobile tests will still be held.

The system is voluntary and state officials stressed is not a substitute for wearing masks or maintaining social distancing.

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