COVID-19 Dashboard Update: Cases Jump After Halloween Pub Crawl Leads to Mandatory Testing of Upperclassmen

An Oct. 31 pub crawl in downtown Greenville prompted Furman to test all on-campus juniors and seniors.

The positivity rate on campus ticked up this week after a Halloween pub crawl led to mandatory tests for all on-campus juniors and seniors. Unsplash

The Nov. 9 COVID-19 Dashboard update revealed the impact of the “pub crawl” downtown on Oct. 31 in addition to the symptomatic and random asymptomatic testing administered every Tuesday and Friday.  

Last Wednesday, students received an update from Furman Focused regarding a large Oct. 31  Paladin Promise violation. The update described a “pub crawl” in downtown Greenville with “as many as 100 or more students” participating in the Halloween night event. In response to confirmed COVID-19 exposure to some participants of this event, the administration enacted two measures for juniors and seniors: immediate low-to-no-contact practices through Nov. 8, and mandatory testing on Nov. 6.  

Sunday Nov. 8, Furman Focused shared the results of the mandatory testing. Of the 911 administered tests to juniors and seniors and tests administered randomly to first- and second-year students, only 13 positive cases were identified. This reveals a positivity rate of 1.3% for the asymptomatic tests administered on Nov. 6, which Furman Focused reports as “the highest rate our campus community has experienced this semester.”

However, testing results suggest that Furman may have dodged a bullet. In comparison to the parties hosted at the Kappa Alpha house in August, where 29 of the 58 attendees tested positive for COVID-19, only 13 students students in the entire junior and senior class came down with the virus after Furman instituted mandatory testing in response to the Halloween pub crawl. Whether those 13 students attended the pub crawl is unclear. Either way, given that the event had nearly double the student attendance as the Kappa Alpha parties, Furman should consider itself lucky.

All in all, from Nov. 2 – Nov. 8, the University administered 1,196 COVID-19 student tests. Despite an increase in tests compared to previous weeks, the Earle Student Health Center confirmed only 21 positive cases. This reflects a positivity rate of 1.76%, a slight increase from the previous week’s 1.74% positivity rate.

Along with 21 positive cases, there was also an increase in the utilization of on-campus isolation and quarantine spaces. The update indicated that 81 students are currently in quarantine, an increase from the 24 students in quarantine last week. Only 33 of the 81 students are quarantined on campus, thus increasing the on-campus quarantine space utilization from 4% last week to 13% this week. However, the Nov. 8 Furman Focused email specified that “contact tracers are also in the process of identifying close contacts of these students so they can be quarantined immediately.”

Dr. John Wheeler of the Public Health and Safety Advisory Group shared appreciation for student cooperation in the additional testing of last week, stating that “it has helped us to better understanding and hopefully contain more widespread rates of infection.” Wheeler also noted that this week revealed the largest number of positive cases, and second highest incidence rate from random asymptomatic testing, in addition to the largest number of students in quarantine and isolation. However, Wheeler praised the majority compliance of students with the Paladin Promise, stating that the administration has been “very pleased” at the efforts by students for “protecting themselves, each other, Furman employees and the Greenville community this Fall.” Wheeler encouraged this continued commitment to the Paladin Promise and the utilization of free voluntary testing for students next week.

In addition to the 1,196 student tests, 4 employee tests were administered, resulting in 1 positive case. These tests were administered upon reported COVID-19 symptoms or exposure to an infected individual.

Beyond Furman, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SC DHEC) released updated disease metrics, showing an increase in the two-week cumulative incidence rate from 314 to 324 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 individuals. The two-week percent positive rate in Greenville County has also increased from 14.1% to 15.8%, which is classified as “high” by SC DHEC.

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