COVID-19 at UVM: 32 positive test results in first week of increased testing

Garbage+bags+full+of+tissues+sit+outside+of+UVM%27s+COVID+testing+center+March+4.

Kate Vanni

Garbage bags full of tissues sit outside of UVM’s COVID testing center March 4.

In UVM’s first week of twice-weekly testing, 32 positive test results were received out of the nearly 20,000 tests administered during the first week of March. 

According to UVM’s COVID-19 dashboard, nine off-campus students, 22 on-campus students and one staff member tested positive for the virus between March 3 and March 7. 

Similarly, nine off-campus students and 22 on-campus students also tested positive for the virus the week before, although only half as many tests were conducted, around 12,000.

Last Monday, the first day of twice-weekly testing, thousands of students waited in lines that stretched across UVM’s central campus in attempts to adhere to the new requirements. The increased testing comes on the heels of recording-breaking case numbers at the University

School officials admitted that the unprecedentedly long lines Monday were an issue, but assured students that the school has since implemented a plan to spread out the testing and reduce lines, according to a March 5 email from Interim Vice Provost Erica Caloiero. 

The email also urged students to schedule their tests using the CoVerified app to keep lines shorter. 

The Vermont Department of Health also announced March 8 that the first case of the COVID-19 variant B.1.1.7–the more-contagious viral mutation first detected in the U.K. in the fall of 2020– was confirmed from a specimen collected in Chittenden County. 

Health Commissioner Mark Levine stated in a March 8 press release that the confirmation of the variant in Vermont was not a surprise. 

“This and other variants have been circulating throughout the U.S. for some time, so we expected to find evidence of it here,” Levine stated. “In fact, we are the last New England state where it has been detected.” 

In the weeks leading up to the discovery, the variant had been detected, but not confirmed in Burlington wastewater samples. Additionally, some UVM students who tested positive for COVID-19 were tested for variants, according to a Feb. 23 Cynic article

In total for the Spring semester, UVM has recorded 204 positive test results received, 199 of which belong to students. Out of the 144,894 COVID-19 tests administered in the fall semester, only 99 student positives were reported. 

In the March 5 email from Caloiero, she stated that in the weeks before the new testing regiment the number of positive cases at UVM was “sobering.” 

“The reason why we are doing twice per-week testing and considering elevated sanctions for conduct incidents is because our case numbers were rising at a rate that would have made it challenging to finish the semester together,” Caloiero stated. 

The twice-weekly testing will continue through March 13, at which time officials will evaluate if the elevated testing should continue or not.