Positive cases of Covid-19 among Auburn University students and employees continued to climb last week, as hospitalizations at East Alabama Medical Center saw a slight uptick after reaching the lowest point in months.
On Tuesday, Auburn University announced that 587 students and 11 employees around the main campus reported a positive test for Covid-19 for the week of Aug. 31-Sept. 6. The previous week, Auburn reported 570 positive cases among students and staff, which followed the 207 cases reported the week of Aug. 15-21. Auburn also reported 859 students tested positive during re-entry testing in August.
The increase in cases among students was expected, said Auburn University Medical Clinic Director Dr. Fred Kam.
"There was a slight increase in the number of patients who tested positive this week," he said. "Totally expected. Actually, it's lower than what I was anticipating, so in this case I'm very happy to be wrong."
Kam added that he is expecting a spike in the coming weeks as Labor Day holiday activities result in more cases, a trend that bore itself out most recently after the July 4 holiday.
"I think it will hit us towards the end of this week, then next week and the week after, so two weeks," said Kam, who said the contagious period for those who contracted the virus over the weekend would run from last Tuesday through Monday. "That's going to be your most contagious period, so if you take extra steps, knowing what you did, you take extra steps to wear your masks, distance yourself, cleanse your hands and avoid getting together with anyone. Even if you got infected, the infection will stop with you; it won't perpetuate and you won't start a mini-outbreak."
Hospital officials are waiting to see if the increase in cases in the community results in a sharp rise in hospitalizations, which dropped to a months-long low of 15 at EAMC and EAMC-Lanier on Sept. 5 before increasing to 25 as of Wednesday morning. Seven patients are currently on ventilators at EAMC.
Lee County has had 3,553 confirmed cases and 1,678 probable cases of Covid-19 since the pandemic began, with 567 confirmed cases coming in the last two weeks, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health, which also lists 49 patients confirmed to have died from Covid-19, with another nine cases listed as probable.
Auburn City Schools has also been providing weekly Covid updates. On Sunday, the school system announced that it had reported 42 cases of Covid-19 to ADPH, and quarantined 407 students and employees who came in close, prolonged contact with someone who tested positive.
"In order to safely maintain an in-person school option for traditional learning, parents and guardians must screen students for symptoms of Covid-19 prior to their boarding a school bus or arriving on a school campus," said ACS Superintendent Cristen Herring in a memo posted to the school system's Facebook page. "While the number of confirmed cases has drastically increased, the continued operation of schools has been determined by the confirmed number of positive cases being less than 1 percent of the student and staff population."