WVU students isolated at Arnold Hall will now be considered an outbreak and counted as a single case—which could improve the county’s color status.
West Virginia University students who are in isolation at Arnold Hall because of positive COVID-19 tests will now be counted as a single outbreak—one case—as opposed to the 65 individual cases currently listed on WVU’s COVID-19 dashboard. The new counting method goes into effect tonight at midnight. That means that Mon County’s 7-day rolling average could be well into orange territory come Saturday, according to the governor—maybe even yellow if it were maxed out, according to our calculations (see last paragraph below)—and offers hope that preK-12 students might return to in-person school this term, he says.
West Virginia’s Drug Czar, Clay Marsh, and Mon County Health Officer Lee Smith worked with the governor’s office over the past two days to determine how the county could responsibly remove at least some WVU students from the county’s 7-day rolling average of new COVID-19 cases and improve the county’s color status so kids can physically go to school. Their discussions included ways to incentivize COVID-positive students living off campus to isolate at Arnold Hall as well.
“There is great concern about the spread of COVID from university students or people associated with them to the general population,” Smith says. “We have been very careful in collecting data, and we do not see that being borne out. These cases do not result in community spread. WVU has stepped up and realized their role in this.”
As of September 15, 65 of the 277 WVU students who are currently infected are isolated away from the community in Arnold Hall. Nurse navigators there care for the students, security guards manage the population, and a card swipe system alerts the university if a student leaves. Anyone who leaves may be subject to penalties, including suspension.
Numbers to know: The 7-day total of new cases that can figure into the color-coding calculation, after nursing home residents, prisoners, and students isolated at Arnold Hall are omitted, is 73—that, on any given Saturday, would put the county in the yellow and allow kids to go to school. On Wednesday, the total was 236, and Arnold Hall has 170 beds. Mon County has already decided to conduct school remotely next week. But if, next week, WVU can persuade enough students who newly test positive to move from university apartments, Greek housing, and off-campus housing to isolate at Arnold Hall and keep Mon County at 73 or under, it could be yellow on Saturday, September 26, clearing the way for students to do their fourth week of the semester physically in school.