UK hands out discipline as students play part in Lexington’s COVID-19 surges -inquirer

While the University of Kentucky has disciplined some students for potentially exposing others to COVID-19, Lexington’s case count continues to rise.

The city reported 200 new COVID-19 cases and one new death from Saturday and Sunday. More than half of those new cases — 106 — came from students at the University of Kentucky, according to data from the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department. Since early August, UK students have accounted for 1,332 of Fayette County’s COVID-19 cases.

Students have to be considered Fayette County residents to be counted in the city’s cases, according to the health department.

Eighty-three of the new cases reported from Friday were also UK students, according to health department data.

UK officials said it’s been difficult to pinpoint any hot spots or clusters just by looking at aggregate data. Students were seen partying — and city police received noise complaints for parties in student areas — on Kentucky Derby Day. But UK said it can’t determine yet if those parties caused a spike.

“It’s difficult to pinpoint the origin of those positive cases, as students are tested on different days and with a different number of days experiencing symptoms,” said UK spokesman Jay Blanton. “It is possible that some of these positives may be tied to Derby weekend, but we also believe that the number of newly reported cases may be artificially high, following the closure of labs over Labor Day weekend.”

Blanton said UK would “continue to monitor” cases to see if they can be tied to those parties.

But UK has punished some students for COVID-19 violations. The university has had about 80 student code of conduct reports for COVID-19 violations this semester. Discipline for those reports has ranged from first-time warnings to “interim” suspensions, Blanton said. For safety or to ensure UK”s operations aren’t disrupted, interim suspensions can be imposed after a complaint about a student but before completion of the conduct process.

UK also reports student COVID-19 cases but the university’s data is released on a three-day lag. The numbers reported by the health department and UK are often different because the city reports positive cases from all testing sites. The city number only includes students considered Fayette County residents.

Meanwhile, UK reports cases for all students, regardless of whether or not they are Fayette County residents. But if the test comes from an off-campus testing site, UK has to be made aware of the positive test result before it can report it. UK required all students —25,339 — returning to campus to get tested by Aug. 22. Students who weren’t expected to be on campus for any reason were not required to get tested.

UK’s most recent student update showed a big increase with 102 new cases on Thursday.

Blanton said the holiday closure of labs Sept. 7 delayed asymptomatic students getting tested, as well as UK receiving notification of positive results. UK will continue to monitor to determine if parties on Labor Day/Kentucky Derby weekend contributed to the uptick in cases.

UK has reported 1,209 total student cases. There were 383 active cases as of Thursday, according to UK, despite the increase of more than 100 cases that same day.

“Even as new cases are reported, the number of current active cases does not necessarily increase at the same rate because other students are also recovering,” Blanton said.

UK’s on-campus isolation, reserved for students who are actively infected, was at 43% capacity as of Thursday, according to UK’s COVID-19 dashboard. There were also 25 students living in Greek life isolation. In total, 97 students were isolated by UK. The rest of the active cases were isolating off campus, according to UK’s dashboard.

The city’s case total increased to 7,200 after Monday’s report. There have now been 70 deaths. The city has also reported 479 total hospitalizations and 5,936 recoveries. The most recent death was a person in their 90s who lived at the Willows at Fritz Farm nursing home, according to the health department. Three residents have died of COVID-19 at the Willows.

Lexington hit 7,000 cases just nine days after city reached the 6,000 mark. It took a record-setting day of new cases to reach 7,000 cases. Lexington reported 167 new cases from Friday, but that number included delayed reports, according to the health department.

Lexington reported 750 new cases over the past seven days (Sept. 7-13), which was a one-week record. The week included two consecutive one-day case increase records, according to health department data. The past week also included nine deaths, a one-week record for Lexington.

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