Surveillance Testing Adjustments and Positivity Rates

To the Case Western Reserve Community:

Even as COVID-19 cases climb across Ohio and our own county, you have powerfully demonstrated the power of prevention. After posting an impressive 0.68 percent positivity rate during the first week of classes, you went on to set an even lower figure last week: 0.4 percent.

So first, we congratulate you. Between nearly universal vaccination and indoor masking, you have made Case Western Reserve among the safest places in the region when it comes to COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports Cuyahoga County’s current rate is 8.1 percent; the CDC’s figures for Cuyahoga’s contiguous counties range from 8.3 to 12.8 percent

As you may recall, we previously planned for entry surveillance testing to end tomorrow (Friday, Sept. 10). Given the region’s recent increase in cases, however, we have decided to extend mandatory surveillance testing for undergraduates living on campus—albeit with a new cadence of every other week. Research has shown that those in congregate living situations are among those at highest risk for transmission. Our hope is that by continuing testing for this group, we will be able to identify areas of increasing positivity rates early—and, in turn, intervene before infections spread more widely.

Mandatory surveillance testing for individuals with medical or religious exemptions will continue, as will testing as needed for symptomatic and exposed individuals. In addition, weekly surveillance testing will be available as voluntary option for all members of the campus communityFind additional details regarding campus COVID-19 testing.

We also want to alert you to an additional information source on our COVID-19 siteInfection and Exposure Processes. This page provides details regarding what happens—and what to do—in various situations involving COVID-19 diagnoses, formal exposure notifications, and concerns about exposures. 

Finally, some have asked whether declining campus transmission rates might soon lead to an end of campus mask requirements—or at least some loosening. With positivity rates in our area continuing to be high and climbing, we will maintain existing protocols—masks worn indoors unless alone, with an exception for instructors who feel a need to remove their masks in class for pedagogical reasons. We will continue to follow county and campus case numbers; should both indicate consistent declines, we will consider revisions to this protocol.

Again, we commend you for reducing the university’s positivity rate last week; we very much hope the region’s numbers follow your example soon.

Eric W. Kaler

Ben Vinson III
Provost and Executive Vice President