DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – It started with several small gatherings when students arrived on campus before classes started – gatherings that didn’t comply with COVID-19 safety guidelines.
Now nearly 10 percent of the student population is infected with COVID-19 and the University of Dayton is dealing with the worst campus outbreak in Ohio and one of the worst outbreaks of any university in the Midwest.
The number of COVID-19 infections at UD grew to 801 on Tuesday with 70 more daily cases reported, according to the latest data from the school. The university remains on Level 4 out of 5 on its COVID-19 Status System and Public Health Dayton and Montgomery County are involved, working to help the university deal with the outbreak.
“The outbreak of COVID-19 on campus was traced to several clusters of the virus that emerged among networks of students based on several small gatherings that occurred prior to the start of classes,” UD officials told WDTN.com in a statement on Wednesday. “(The gatherings) did not comply fully with the university’s safety protocols.”
As universities begin on-site classes for the first time since COVID-19 shut down much of the country during the spring, outbreaks have occurred on campuses across the country. Miami University nearly doubled its numbers in one day after recent testing showed 529 positive cases. The University of Iowa, which has one of the worst outbreaks in the country, had its number of positives grow to 1,142 as of testing through Aug. 31.
Even if gatherings are small, they can still lead to a large congregate outbreak, according to Dan Suffletto of Public Health Dayton and Montgomery County. Dorm rooms are small, apartments often house many students at a time, and people living within close proximity will be susceptible to contact the virus.
“It’s similar to how it progresses in a nursing home,” Dan Suffoletto of Public Health Dayton and Montgomery County said. “You have a lot of people living together and it’s going to spread.”
Some students going home because of outbreak
UD said students identified as close contacts of someone with COVID-19 needed to return home to their permanent residence if they lived within 400 miles of the campus. The idea is to allow more isolation and quarantine space for students who live outside that 400-mile range or have family members who are at high risk for the virus. If they can’t return home, they are transferred to quarantine housing that’s provided on campus.
“For students who need to isolate, returning home allows them to be under the care of their families and doctors,” the university stated.
UD said its been encouraged by the response of the student body. In its statement, UD said students are following safety protocols more stringently now than before classes started and said they are witnessing more peer-to-peer encouragement. Given the incubation period of the virus, UD stated it expected it to take several weeks before positive cases start dropping in numbers.
“It will take some time, however, for this positive change in behavior to be reflected in the testing data,” the university’s statement said.
For the latest COVID-19 numbers at UD, visit the university’s website.