COVID-19 at UVM: Nearly 50 positive cases reported among students in all-time high


Kyle Elms

Colorful decals lead students through the check-in line and to the testing area Feb. 15.

Staff Report

Feb. 16, 2021

Nearly 50 students tested positive for COVID-19 last week marking the highest number of student positives to date at UVM. 

Thirty-six on-campus residential students and 10 off-campus students tested positive for COVID-19 out of 11,036 total student swabs taken between Feb. 8 and Feb. 14.

Despite the record number of cases, as of Tuesday morning, UVM has not sent any emails alerting students of the number of positives or reminding the community of policies and best practices in place to protect against COVID-19. 

As UVM enters the third week of the semester, the total amount of positive test results received across all testing groups is 80. That number is just 19 positive results short of UVM’s total positive number of cases reported during the fall semester. 

The only other testing cycle in which a similar level of positive results were received was two weeks after Halloween, in November 2020. From Nov. 9, 2020, through Nov. 15, 2020, UVM reported a total of 35 positive test results. 

By the first day of classes for the Spring 2021 semester, about 1,500 students did not receive pre-arrival test results. Additionally, only 7,012 test results were received before the Feb. 1 start date, a number significantly lower than the in-person student population this semester. 

The Vermont Department of Health has also discovered a variant strain of coronavirus in Burlington wastewater, according to a Feb. 11 press release from Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger. 

The sampling identified two COVID-19 virus mutations that are associated with the B.1.1.7 variant, first detected in the United Kingdom, according to a Feb. 11 Department of Health release. 

Despite the initial results identifying the variants, it does not mean definitively the COVID-19 mutations are in Burlington, according to the health department. 

Health Commissioner Mark Levine stated last Thursday that the new finding is indicative of “a new stage of the pandemic here in Vermont,” according to a Feb.11 VTDigger article.

There are no new known cases of the virus among faculty and staff in this week’s testing results. 

-Ella Ruehsen, Cynic News Reporter

Feb. 9, 2021

Thirty four new cases of COVID-19 were reported among all members of the UVM community from the first week of the spring semester. 

If students continue to test positive at the current rate, UVM will surpass the number of cases from fall semester by just the third week of spring semester.

There were 99 student positives from the fall semester and 32 so far this semester, making 131 student positives throughout this academic year. 

Fifteen of the new cases reported were on-campus students and 17 of the cases were off-campus students. 

12,323 student test results were received during the first week of the spring semester’s routine weekly PCR testing, between Feb. 1 and Feb. 7. 

There were two additional new cases among UVM staff with no new cases among faculty. 

Although testing is not mandatory among faculty and staff as it is for students, Provost Patricia Prelock stated in her report to the board of trustees Feb. 5 that UVM is “placing greater emphasis on its value for these groups this semester.”

Additionally, Prelock warned that cases will likely be higher than they were last semester, although the University is not altering its mitigation strategy

“It is likely that our positivity rates will be higher this semester than last, but we are ready to deploy the excellent response and containment plans we have in place,” she stated.

President Suresh Garimella warned the UVM community of mounting cases and the need for students to adhere to COVID-19 safety precautions in a Feb. 1 video sent to the community.

“New strains of COVID-19 are emerging that appear to make it even more transmissible,” Garimella said. “Throughout Vermont, including here in Burlington, [cases] are higher now than they were in the fall, and the cold weather brings additional challenges.” 

Vermont health officials reported 398 new cases of coronavirus in Chittenden County in the last 14 days, which indicates that the county has the highest reproduction rate in the state.

-Ella Ruehsen, Cynic News Reporter

Feb. 3, 2021

In the days before spring semester began, UVM reported 30 new positive cases among community members out of about 9,042 test results received. 

15 of these positive tests came from on-campus residential students, and 11 of them were found among off-campus residential students. Additionally, one faculty member and one staff member tested positive. 

The test results reflect swabs received between Jan. 25 and Jan. 31 upon students’ return to campus, officially kicking off the regular weekly testing program for the spring semester. 

Cumulatively, there have been 144 positive test results among students since UVM started routine COVID-19 testing at the beginning of August. 

Positive results increased dramatically in the weeks before students left for winter break in the fall, shooting from only a handful of cases a week for most of the semester to 35 and 42 in the last two weeks before winter break. 

There have been 41 additional positive tests received since the beginning of August among UVM’s faculty and staff, though faculty and staff are not required to test weekly. 

During winter break, the student body received an email from now former Vice Provost Annie Stevens, notifying them of a surge in cases in Vermont. 

“Chittenden County had 580 cases within the last 14 days and recent case counts across the state spiked to over 200 daily,” she stated in the Jan 9 email. “This is resulting in a 2.9% positivity rate within the state, which, while the best in the continental US, is our highest rate seen to date.”

Vermont health officials have reported that most recently, Chittenden County continues to have the highest rate of infection in the state, with 468 cases in the last 14 days according to their website.

-Ella Ruehsen, Cynic News Reporter

Dec. 1, 2020

UVM reported ten new cases of COVID-19 over Thanksgiving week, with three off-campus students and seven on-campus students testing positive for the virus. 

One staff member tested positive for the virus as well. 

Between Nov. 23 and Nov. 29, 7,053 student test results were received and 1,011 faculty and staff tests results were received according to the weekly testing report.

During the week, the testing site was only open Monday and Tuesday and was closed Nov. 25-29 for the holiday break. 

Students that opt to remain on campus for the last two weeks of the semester before winter break are required to still get tested every seven days through Dec. 11.

Vermont health officials reported two new deaths related to COVID-19 and 68 new infections Monday, Nov. 30, and 101 new infections Tuesday, Dec. 1.

Lila Cumming, Cynic News Reporter

Nov. 23, 2020

UVM’s COVID-19 cases broke another record this week with 42 positive cases in the campus community, updated on UVM’s website one day before the beginning of Thanksgiving break. 

Between Nov. 16 and Nov. 22, UVM received 12,095 test results. Of these, 29 off-campus students and six on-campus students tested positive, as well as four faculty members and two staff members. 

Despite the record-high number of cases, students were not notified by email about the increase, although they had been the week before, when there were 35 cases reported in the community.

Since testing began in August, 107 UVM community members have tested positive for the virus, according to the weekly testing report. 

The state of Vermont also recently broke its daily record, reporting 148 new cases last Thursday Nov. 26. Vermont’s cases are rising faster than every other state in the country except Maine, according to a Nov. 17 VTDigger article.

According to the article, the rise in cases in Vermont has been tied to outbreaks at colleges, nursing homes and recreational sports, and state officials pointed out that data suggests the rise is a result of people gathering on Halloween. 

As most of the student body returned home to their families for Thanksgiving break, many received their test results later than usual following a delay at the lab that processes UVM’s results. 

Gary Derr, Vice President for Operations and Public Safety, announced in a Nov. 20 email that lab testing for UVM testing and other universities was delayed due to a procedural issue. 

“The delay is impacting a number of colleges and universities, and has been further exacerbated by a record number of tests being submitted this week,” Derr stated. 

The email stated that the problem was resolved and the lab started processing tests again. Derr also stated in the email that the CoVerified app has also had delays.

-Lila Cumming, Cynic News Reporter

Nov. 16, 2020

35 UVM community members tested positive for COVID-19 in just the last week, more than tripling last week’s record high of seven positive cases. 

20 off-campus and seven on-campus students tested positive for COVID-19 this week, and eight faculty and staff tested positive.

The weekly testing report showing test results received between Nov. 9 and Nov. 15 follows an announcement from Governor Phil Scott Nov. 13 that Vermonters should not interact with anyone outside of their household, and that bars are now closed indefinitely. 

Before the test results were released Monday, UVM notified students Sunday that all undergraduate students are permitted to leave campus this week and continue their studies remotely if they choose, before in-person classes end next Tuesday, Nov. 24.

Gary Derr, vice president for operation and public safety, sent an email to students Nov. 16 just minutes after the weekly testing report was updated at 5 p.m., roughly an hour after it usually updates.

“As you are aware, there has been a recent increase in coronavirus infections in Chittenden County and throughout the region,” Derr stated. “Not surprisingly, the university has also seen a recent increase in the number of coronavirus infections.”

Vermont reported 122 new cases of COVID-19 Monday, setting a new record for highest cases reported in one day. 28 of the new cases were in Chittenden County. 

Despite the rise in cases, Derr said all students that tested positive have been notified and are in isolation, and that contact tracing has been completed, and close contacts are in quarantine.

“It is worth noting that despite the increase in positive cases, the university’s positivity rate from last week remains low relative to the rate in the state,” Derr stated. “The 27 student cases translate to a positivity rate of 0.25%, compared to the state’s 1.6%.”

-Emma Pinezich, News and Sports Editor

Nov. 10, 2020

UVM’s COVID-19 cases remain higher than they have been all semester, with six on campus and one off campus student testing positive in last week’s testing cycle

An eighth student additionally received a positive test result from a test administered out of state, according to UVM spokesperson Enrique Corredera.  

14,412 tests were conducted last week, the most since the beginning of the semester. Students tested Monday and Tuesday of last week were asked to retest Friday and Saturday  in response to a recommendation from the Vermont Department of Health.

The test results indicate that only one additional student tested positive for COVID-19 between Wednesday and Sunday, after seven cases were confirmed last Tuesday by Corredera, according to a Nov. 4 Cynic article. 

The increase in positive cases appeared in the days after Halloween weekend, where a number of students in quarantine admitted they had gathered with other students over the weekend, and other students said they heard about frat and club sports parties over the weekend, according to a Nov. 9 Cynic article

In response to the positive test results, UVM suspended its guest policy that allowed students to have one guest from their floor in their room and reiterated that students should not travel outside of Burlington until they leave for Thanksgiving break. 

UVM is not considering the eight cases an outbreak because they are not related to each other, according to Annie Stevens, vice provost of student affairs. 

The increase in cases comes as Chittenden County is experiencing a spike in COVID-19 cases, with 132 positive cases in the last 14 days, according to the Vermont Department of Health COVID-19 dashboard.  

In response, Vermont has doubled down on safety measures, reinstating a requirement that anyone coming into Vermont from out of state quarantine for 14 days as of Nov. 10. 

-Lilly Page, Cynic News Reporter

Nov. 3, 2020

Two staff tested positive for COVID-19 at UVM between Oct. 26 and Nov. 1, according to the University’s weekly testing report. 

These are the first positive test results among staff of this academic year.

No positive test results were reported among students this week for the first time since Aug. 7, when testing began.

UVM received a total of 11,015 test results this week, over 600 more tests than the previous week of Sept. 17. 

Of the test results received, 10,429 were from students and 586 were from faculty and staff. 

President Suresh Garimella and Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger celebrated administering over 100,000 tests throughout the course of the fall semester Oct. 27.

This testing cycle’s results were published just two days after Halloween, when students were cautioned to stay COVID safe by the UVM and Burlington community.

Annie Stevens, vice provost for student affairs, sent out an email to students Oct. 29, advising students to be conscious of COVID-19 precautions while celebrating the holiday.

“Because we want to continue in-person campus classes and activities, I am asking for your continued commitment to the Green and Gold Promise,” Stevens stated.

UVM’s Student Government Association also sent out an email encouraging students to participate in Halloween safely by cautioning students “to not go to or host any large gatherings.” 

Statewide, Vermont is experiencing an influx of positive cases for COVID-19. In the past seven days alone, 106 people have tested positive for the virus, according to the Vermont Department of Health.

-Paige Fisher, Cynic News Reporter

Oct. 27, 2020:

This past week, only one UVM off-campus student tested positive for COVID-19, according to UVM’s weekly testing report.

There were zero positive tests reported among on-campus students, faculty and staff this week. This marks the third week in a row where just one UVM student has tested positive. 

10,361 student and 555 faculty and staff test results were received for this testing cycle between Oct. 19 and Oct. 25. 

There have been 27 positive cases over the course of the fall semester in total, and zero cases among faculty and staff. 

Despite these relatively low numbers among the UVM community, Vermont officials are tightening Vermont public school restrictions due to the largest statewide spike in weeks, according to an Oct. 23 New England Cable News article. 

Saint Michael’s College in Colchester has gone entirely remote for the time being after eight of their students tested positive Oct. 22. 

According to an Oct. 26 WCAX article, the school has 28 active cases of the virus with 140 students in quarantine. 

In spite of the outbreak, Vermont still had the lowest number of COVID-19 cases in the US over the last seven days with 136 positive cases, according to the Center for Disease Control.

The CDC recently expanded its definition of a “close contact” in order to improve contact tracing, based on a study done in Vermont. 

Ella Ruehsen, Cynic News Reporter

Oct. 20, 2020:

Only one person tested positive for COVID-19 at UVM between Oct. 12 and Oct. 18, according to the University’s weekly testing report. 

UVM received a total of 10,419 student test results and 544 faculty and staff test results this past week. The one positive case was an off-campus student.

Cumulatively, 13 on-campus and 13 off-campus students have tested positive since testing on campus began in early August. No staff members nor faculty have tested positive for the virus yet according to the report.

UVM President Suresh Garimella cautioned students in an Oct. 14 email, citing a recent spike in cases in the northeast including in Vermont. 

In the past two days, the Vermont Department of Health has reported 20 cases statewide, according to the COVID-19 dashboard.

In addition, the Health Department announced 30 cases of COVID-19 in the state have been connected to hockey and broomball leagues in central Vermont.

“We find ourselves at a pivotal point in our effort to contain the spread of COVID-19,” Garimella stated. “With the flu and cold season fast approaching, it is critically important we continue to follow the measures that will protect us, such as mask-wearing, social distancing and handwashing.”

-Paige Fisher, Cynic News Reporter

Oct. 13, 2020:

UVM reported only one positive case of COVID-19 out of roughly 11,000 test results from the campus community this past week, according to their weekly testing report

The single positive case was an off-campus student. Overall, UVM received 10,499 student test results and 553 faculty and staff test results between Oct. 5 and Oct. 11. 

Since the second week of August, 12 off campus students and 13 on-campus students have tested positive for the virus, while zero faculty or staff have tested positive. 

The state of Vermont continues to hold the lowest case count per 500,000 people in the nation according to the Center for Disease Control. 

There have been nine newly confirmed cases out of the 173,715 tests conducted in the past week state-wide, according to the Vermont Department of Health. 

In an email sent to students Oct. 12, Gary Derr, UVM’s VP of operations and public safety warned that travel is one of the main causes of spreading the virus in Vermont, according to the Vermont Department of Public Health. 

“I am writing with my strongest recommendation that you do not travel outside of Vermont, and that you do not invite any out of state friends or family to Vermont,” Derr stated.

The email stated that all students that travel outside of Vermont must abide by the state’s travel restrictions which require 14-day quarantine or 7 days followed by a negative COVID test. 

He also noted that personal travel is not an excused absence and that students traveling outside of Vermont should notify Student Health Services to make arrangements for their quarantine.

-Ella Ruehsen, Cynic News Reporter

Oct. 5, 2020:

UVM reported two positive cases, one on-campus student and one off-campus student, in the 7,311 test results received between Oct. 1 and Oct. 4.

UVM has revised its reporting cycle, now updating the numbers on its COVID-19 dashboard on the Monday of every week.

Overall, 11 off-campus students and 13 on-campus students have tested positive since the beginning of August.

Zero faculty and staff have tested positive since August.

Statewide, Vermont reported its largest jump in cases since June 3 with 33 new cases of COVID-19 reported Monday morning. 26 of these cases occurred among a group of migrant farmworkers in Addison County.

The state’s case count now stands at 1,821.

-Alek Fleury, Managing Editor

Oct. 1, 2020:

UVM reported just one positive COVID-19 case this week among the nearly 12,000 test results received from students, faculty and staff.

According to UVM’s weekly test report released Thursday, Oct. 1, one off-campus student tested positive while no on-campus students, faculty or staff tested positive.

Overall, ten off-campus and 12 on-campus students have tested positive since the beginning of August, and 55,446 total test results have been received.

This past week, UVM’s percent positivity rate in the community was its lowest yet, at just 0.008 percent. 

As UVM’s cases continue to drop, national data indicate the opposite trend: as most colleges have brought students back to campus over the last several weeks, cases among young adults in the US have skyrocketed.

According to a report published Sept. 29 by the Center for Disease Control, between Aug. 2 and Sept. 5, weekly COVID-19 cases among 18-22-year-olds increased 144 percent in the Northeast, and 55 percent nationally.

Meanwhile, since students arrived on campus, UVM cases have continued to drop, and Vermont maintains the lowest COVID-19 incidence in the nation. 

In addition to the new numbers, the weekly testing report also announced that starting next week, UVM will report test results from Monday to Sunday, instead of Thursday to Wednesday, to comply with requests from the state.

-Emma Pinezich, News and Sports Editor

Sept. 25, 2020:

One more on-campus student and one off-campus student tested positive for COVID-19 over the last week, according to weekly UVM testing data. 

UVM’s frequency of positive cases on campus remains low, despite turmoil at college campuses across the country.

6,274 off-campus students and 4,110 on-campus test results were received between Sept. 17 and Sept. 23. 

UVM’s percent positivity rate this testing cycle was 0.01, just a fraction of the overall percent positivity rate for Vermont colleges, which, according to a Sept. 22 VermontBiz article, is 0.08.

The number of test results received week by week has varied since the first week of classes, from 11,998 results received the first week, and 8,039 results received the third.

Now, in the fourth week, UVM reported 10,874 test results received.

No faculty or staff have tested positive for COVID-19 since Aug. 7, according to the data.

Although testing is only mandatory for students, 135 faculty members and 355 staff test results were received this past week.

According to the UVM Office of Institutional Research, UVM employed 1,352 full-time faculty and 2,2218 staff this time last year.

Emma Pinezich, News and Sports Editor

Sept. 17, 2020:

Two on-campus and two off-campus students tested positive for COVID-19 over the last seven days, according to UVM’s weekly testing report.

The report, updated just after 4 p.m. Sept. 17, showed that 9,567 students, 123 faculty and 353 staff were tested between Sept. 10 and Sept. 16.

For the third week in a row, no faculty or staff tested positive. 

Based on this data, UVM’s seven-day percent positivity rate is 0.03. This comes in below the overall Vermont colleges positivity rate of .09.

However, nearly 1,500 fewer students, faculty and staff were tested this week compared to the first week of testing. 

Between Aug. 31 and Sept. 7, 11,466 test results were received, compared to this week’s 10,043 and last week’s 8,039.

In a Sept. 16 email to students, Gary Derr, VP for operations and public safety, reiterated the importance of testing and thanked students for “meeting their testing responsibilities.” 

“We are currently working through compliance issues and notifying those not in compliance of the clear expectations and consequences, which include fines and other sanctions, including suspension,” he stated.

UVM also announced Wednesday that students will be tested weekly for COVID-19 through the end of October. Originally, mandatory weekly testing was set to end Sept. 18. 

Emma Pinezich, News and Sports Editor

Sept. 10, 2020:

Results from UVM’s second COVID-19 testing cycle indicate that 3,427 fewer students were tested this week than last, despite University requirement that all students get tested weekly.

One more on-campus student and two more off-campus students have tested positive this week for COVID-19. No faculty or staff have tested positive for the virus since Aug. 7, according to the report. 

Last week, three off-campus students and seven on-campus students tested positive for COVID-19.

UVM’s Return too Campus website was updated as of 4:17 p.m. Sept. 10. The report shows that 8,039 test results were received between Sept. 3 to Sept. 9. Last week, 11,466 were received. 

According to UVM’s Center for Student Conduct website, students are fined $250 if they miss their test once, and face suspension if they miss their test twice.

98 more pre-arrival tests were received since Sept. 2, none of which were positive. In total, 9,799 pre-arrival tests have been received. 

Overall, 12 students have tested positive for COVID-19 since Aug. 7.

-Irene Choi, Assistant News Editor

Sept. 3, 2020:

Only four days into the first semester, seven students on UVM’s campus and three off-campus students have tested positive this week for COVID-19. 

Based on numbers released once a week, from Aug. 27 through Sept. 2, UVM reported that 10 students tested positive while no faculty that were positive. During this weekly testing cycle 11,466 students were tested. 

During the last testing period, Aug. 19 through Aug. 26, zero students tested positive, but only 1,225 students were tested. 

Since Aug. 7, eight on-campus residential students and four off-campus students have tested positive in total. According to the report, zero faculty or staff have tested positive. 

According to the website, of the 9,701 student pre-arrival tests, eight were positive.

However, at a press conference yesterday with Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger, Brian Lowe, Burlington’s Chief Innovation Officer, said that 9,855 Vault COVID-19 tests were administered to students with eight positives, a discrepancy of 154 tests. 

Although the Return to Campus website was updated with the new numbers as of 8:18 p.m. Thursday, students were not notified via e-mail of the update on the number of students tested and positive cases.

-Irene Choi, Assistant News Editor