LEXINGTON, Ky. (Aug. 21, 2020) — The University of Kentucky will re-test for COVID-19 5,500 students who participate in UK Fraternity and Sorority Life (FSL), as part of its planned Phase II of on-campus testing officials announced Friday.
The re-testing protocol represents the start of Phase II of UK’s testing plan under its Restart Playbook (p. 10) that has guided the university’s reopening plans for the fall semester. This next phase focuses on students in FSL because of higher positivity rates among these students, as compared to the general student population.
Specifically, students in FSL organizations currently have a positivity rate of approximately 3%, compared to the general student population’s positivity rate of approximately 1%. Both rates are lower than the Commonwealth’s positivity rate. Moreover, of the 49 students in isolation after testing positive for the virus, a majority — 30 — reside in two fraternity houses on campus. Those fraternities will continue to isolate in their respective houses.
Over the last two weeks, UK has conducted mandatory testing among all students who come on campus. More than 21,000 students were tested as of Aug. 17. UK also has conducted voluntary testing among employees. Some 600 employees have tested thus far, and fewer than five have tested positive. UK will initiate a community testing program on Aug. 24.
UK’s START team, comprised of health professionals and public health experts, recommended mandatory testing for students and outlined plans for follow-up testing that would be dictated by data collected over time.
“It’s important that we address this issue of students in our fraternities and sororities quickly, thoughtfully and with care,” said UK President Eli Capilouto. “Our preparation and planning thus far have enabled us to understand issues as they arise and have given us the capacity to address them. That’s what we are doing in Phase II of our plan.”
Details of the retesting plan include:
- Beginning Sunday, the mandatory re-testing program for students in FSL will begin. The existing testing site near The 90 and William T. Young Library will offer four walk-up testing lanes.
- Testing on Sunday will take place from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- Testing Monday, Aug. 24, through Sunday, Aug. 30, will take place in the same location from 8 a.m. to noon.
- After testing all students in FSL, the university will begin testing other student groups, guided by analysis of baseline data. Officials will release details of that plan later.
- UK will continue to utilize Wild Health, the private Lexington-based company that has conducted student and employee testing thus far.
Capilouto stressed that the move to re-test students in FSL is not a move to blame students. Rather, he said, a combination of factors likely contributed to the higher positivity rates, and it was simply important for UK to move quickly to address the challenge; that capacity was made possible by the institution’s comprehensive planning process.
“We are able to move with speed and precision because of our preparation and planning. We began the semester with a plan to gather the necessary data to inform our interventions — by mandating testing for all students as they arrived on campus,” Capilouto said. “That testing regimen — recommended in our restart playbook and by a team of health professionals and public health experts — created a baseline of data that’s now enabling us to quickly detect and respond to trends.”
Capilouto said it was important to reinforce the factors university officials are using to monitor the health and well-being of the campus, which include:
- Supply of PPE.
- The number of critical care beds in UK HealthCare to serve both campus and community.
- Positivity rates.
- The capacity for daily screening and ongoing contact tracing.
- The capacity for isolation and quarantining.
- The ability to provide residential experience on our campus.
- Guidance from local, state and federal health and public policy officials.
“We remain in a good place on each of those measures, although it is critical that we undertake retesting now,” Capilouto said. “As we move forward with this process, we will report these numbers along with our continued plans for how we will do what it takes to keep our campus community healthy and safe.”
The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers." We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.