COLUMBIA, S.C. — The University of South Carolina saw another jump in coronavirus cases in the latest numbers release by the school. Meanwhile, the school has suspended 7 more students for violating COVID rules and put another 3 Greek houses on quarantine.
The school released its latest data Friday afternoon, which showed 1,443 active student cases. There were another 18 employee cases, for a total of 1,461. On the school's last update on Tuesday there were 1,172 student cases.
So far, the cases are said to be either students with no symptoms or mild symptoms, and as of yet, there are no hospitalizations or deaths.
It's unclear how many of these cases are showing up in DHEC's data for Richland County, but on Friday, Richland saw its highest one-day total of coronavirus cases, 429, since the pandemic began in March.
However, UofSC President Bob Caslen said he believes they saw signs of success this week but are wary of the holiday weekend coming up.
"Although our total number of positive cases remains high, this week we actually saw signs of a reduced campus case load and positivity rate," he said in a statement. "Following the holiday weekend, however, we anticipate an uptick in cases on campus in line with the anticipated national trend."
The school said Friday three more houses in the Greek Village, which are for sorority and fraternity members, had been placed on quarantine after residents tested positive for COVID-19.That now means a total of 12 houses are currently in quarantine.
The university’s decisions regarding quarantine are made in consultation with SC Department of Health and Environmental Control and are designed to reduce the risk of spread into the community.
The school also said seven additional students were issued interim suspensions this week for violating public safety, either through hosting/organizing large parties or violating quarantine. To date, a total of 22 students have received COVID-19 related interim suspensions.
The university said it strongly urges all of students to follow public health guidelines to keep our entire community safe: wear face coverings, socially distance and avoid large in-person gatherings where distancing cannot be achieved.
The University also announced Friday its expanded its quarantine capacity with a month-long lease agreement with a local hotel (SpringHill Suites), securing an additional 132 rooms for use by students. Only UofSC students under quarantine will be housed at the hotel during this period and access will be closely monitored.
Students in quarantine are provided an array of support to ensure their physical and emotional needs are met and that their academic progress in not hindered. This includes a dedicated healthcare coordinator, 24-hour access to mental health care, regularly delivered meals, online tutoring, and a peer-to-peer support program designed for those experiencing quarantine.
The university plans to resume saliva testing next week after temporarily suspending it after a lab employee got sick. Students were told to go to other testing sites in the area.
The school says testing will ramp up over a short period as replacement personnel are certified. In order to get our saliva testing capacity operational, we are working with two of our community partners, the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control and Nephron Pharmaceuticals, who are providing back-up staffing and additional testing support.
Here is the full statement from Caslen:
“Although our total number of positive cases remains high, this week we actually saw signs of a reduced campus case load and positivity rate. Following the holiday weekend, however, we anticipate an uptick in cases on campus in line with the anticipated national trend. Because of this, we have leased a local hotel to increase student quarantine capacity.
We remain committed to testing as many students, faculty and staff as possible. We want to identify every positive case, take care of each one, and get students back into the classroom as soon as we can. We continue to focus and work tirelessly on our top priority – the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff – as we provide the best educational experience for our students.
I remind our students, faculty and staff to follow social distancing guidelines and wear face coverings over the holiday weekend to take care of themselves and their loved ones.”
The school has been able to test their students, faculty and staff for free using the Saliva Assay Free Expedited (SAFE) test.