Rider coronavirus numbers rise slowly amidst surveillance testing

By Austin Ferguson

After establishing a dashboard to track positive COVID-19 cases within the campus community during the fall 2020 semester, Rider University has created a new dashboard to do the same for spring  2021.

Starting on Sept. 28, 2020, the university updated positive cases of COVID-19 every Tuesday onto an online dashboard on Rider’s website, reflecting new positive cases in on-campus students, off-campus students, on-campus employees and off-campus employees. As of Oct. 13, the dashboard is updated every Tuesday and Friday.

Before the start of surveillance testing the week of Oct. 12, Rider University’s health center only administered 18 COVID-19 tests during the Fall 2020 semester. From Aug. 31 to the start of surveillance testing, the university only received six positive tests for COVID-19; three from off-campus students, two from on-campus employees and one from an on-campus student.

For the portion of the semester after the start of surveillance testing through Jan. 3, 2021, 80 positive tests were returned, half of which came from on-campus students between Nov. 9 and Nov. 22.

With surveillance testing now mandatory for on-campus students, Rider has administered over 1600 surveillance tests since Jan. 4. In that span, 21 positive cases have returned as of Feb. 9, most of which have come from off-campus students. 

Vice President for Strategic Initiatives and Planning and Secretary to the Board Debbie Stasolla noted that an uptick in postive cases is likely with an increase in surveillance testing.

“Because we are doing more testing, we’re going to have more cases and close contacts” Stasolla said. “That is the nature of the beast.”

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The university’s dashboard also contains information on the number of students in quarantine and isolation on and off campus. According to the dashboard, “Students or employees in quarantine have been identified as close contacts of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, are completing their travel advisory required quarantine or have symptoms consistent with COVID-19 and are awaiting test results,” while “students or employees in isolation have tested positive for COVID-19.”

According to the dashboard, up to three students and four employees were in quarantine at any given time through the end of January, with only one student quarantining on campus. To that same point, up to four students and the same amount of employees had been isolated, all of them off campus.

In the following two weeks, as of Feb. 5, as many as 19 students on campus and 15 off-campus were in quarantine and as many as three students on campus and nine off-campus students were in isolation. There have been no reported employees in quarantine or isolation during that span.

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