Breaking a three-week downward trend in COVID-19 positivity rates among students, faculty, and staff, Feb. 15 marked the highest single-day spike among undergraduates this academic year, with 104 students testing positive for COVID-19.
The most recently reported testing day, Feb. 21, comes in a close second with 95 undergraduates testing positive. The surge observed in the last week has seemingly not abated.
This upsurge was driven by the undergraduate population, with 300 positive cases out of a total of 6,414 asymptomatic tests last week, compared to 21 positive cases out of 5,537 asymptomatic tests the week prior.
While the campus risk status remains in the yellow “Moderate to High” range, according to the latest data from the University’s COVID-19 dashboard, the campus positivity rate stands at 2.32 percent as of Feb. 22, a more than sevenfold increase from the 0.32 percent reported the week prior.
This sudden outbreak is at odds with statewide trends, as COVID-19 rates in New Jersey continue to fall. Additionally, rates among both graduate students and faculty members and staff decreased this week, with 0.22 percent and 0.25 percent positivity rates, respectively. For the week ending on Feb. 11, positivity rates were 0.3 percent and 0.27 percent respectively.
Dean of the College Jill Dolan cited the low, stable rates among the graduate and faculty testing groups in a Feb. 18 email sent to the undergraduate community that addressed the spike in undergraduate cases.
“Fluctuations in case numbers like these aren’t surprising,” Dolan wrote. “And we want you to know that faculty, staff, and graduate student cases remain low.”
The email also specified that the University is not planning to implement additional policies to mitigate COVID-19 at the moment, but will continue to enforce existing guidelines, most recently updated on Feb. 8.
This decision may reflect a broader effort on the part of University leadership to shift away from reactive policies. In his 2022 annual State of the University Letter, University President Christopher L. Eisgruber ’83 wrote, “We will move toward a post-restriction world even if we cannot reach a post-COVID world.”
The University reaffirmed this stance in a written statement to the ‘Prince.’
“[N]o additional mitigations are planned at this time. We continue to provide support to students who have tested positive – most of whom are experiencing mild symptoms,” wrote Deputy University Spokesperson Michael Hotchkiss.
Tess Weinreich is a news staff writer and features contributor for the 'Prince.' She can be reached at email@example.com.