College cases, Sept. 26

Cases among UK students since March account for 90 percent of all college cases reported by the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department.

Between one and five UK students have been hospitalized with COVID-19 complications, according to the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department.

The hospitalizations were first reported on Sept. 21, though LFCHD did not specify which college the students attended.

On Thursday, Sept. 24, LFCHD began to report cases on a college-by-college basis, and the hospitalizations were marked on the UK section of the health department’s daily update.

Because there are so few students hospitalized, LFCHD chose to report the number as “<5” to preserve their privacy; with so few affected, a hospitalized student could possibly be identified, which violates guidelines from the U.S. Department of Education and National Center for Health Statistics.

UK spokesperson Jay Blanton said the hospitalizations did not change UK’s plans for the semester.

“As demonstrated by our number of active cases, which has largely remained stable, we remain cautiously optimistic that we are effectively managing the spread of this disease,” said Blanton, citing this week’s decrease in new cases relative to previous weeks.

According to data from Blanton, UK currently has a semester positivity rate of just over 4 percent, with 1,300 positives resulting from over 31,000 university-conducted tests.

The health department began reporting COVID-19 cases from other colleges in Fayette County last week. As of Sept. 26, five colleges had a combined total of 2,185 cases reported amongst college students in Lexington-Fayette County.

UK students are responsible for the bulk of those cases: UK cases reported since the start of the semester on Aug. 17 account for 80 percent of college cases reported by LFCHD, and 21 percent of all of Lexington’s cases since March.

Blanton said the greater number of student cases at UK is to be expected because of its size.

“There’s no question that UK will have more cases of the virus because we are several times larger than any institution and we are testing, tracing, screening, tracking and reporting more than any other institution,” Blanton said. “And we are reporting, transparently, a great deal of information about our testing, screening and isolation efforts.”

According to UK’s COVID-19 dashboard, 25,399 students are coming to UK’s campus; 1,747 students have tested positive and live in or are isolating in Lexington, meaning that up to 7 percent of UK students in Lexington have tested positive for COVID-19 this semester, although the exact percentage could be lower depending on how many students are taking all online classes and thus are not included in the 25,399.

At least 1,978 UK students have tested positive for COVID-19 since March, though that number only includes students who are Fayette County residents or who choose to live in Fayette County for their isolation. With a student body of a little over 30,000, this means that at minimum 6 percent of UK students have had COVID-19, and most of the cases reported here have occurred since the semester began.

Bluegrass Community Technical College has a student population of 10,144 according to their website, and thus far LFCHD has reported 73 cases in their student body, meaning that .7 percent of their student body has tested positive for COVID-19. It is not clear how many of those students are going to BCTC’s campus.

As of Sept. 26, Commonwealth Baptist had the most cases out of the other Fayette County colleges, with 76 cases reported by LFCHD, though no increases since LFCHD began reporting on a college-by-college basis.

Transylvania University had the third highest case number, 57, out of the other colleges, putting it into fourth when UK is included.

Fayette County is currently in the orange or “accelerated” zone for COVID-19, with increases largely driven by UK students. An orange rating means that K - 12 children in Fayette County may not get to return to in-person schooling.

Blanton said the university would not comment on student hospitalizations with numbers fewer than five. The status of the hospitalized student or students is unknown.