Dr. Aaron Carroll, IU’s director of mitigation testing, answered questions from the IU community about mitigation testing Thursday night in a webinar moderated by IU spokesperson Chuck Carney.
Questions could be submitted in advance or live by participants and focused on mitigation testing, greek housing and IU’s rising number of positive cases.
Why isn’t IU reporting test results more frequently?
Carroll said the main reason COVID-19 testing results on IU’s campuses are released weekly rather than daily is to put the data in context.
He said because different groups are tested on different days, some days will have significantly more positive cases, which doesn’t necessarily represent the rate of positive cases on those days on IU’s campuses.
For example, Carroll said instead of going to on-campus mitigation testing sites, students in greek houses take their tests in their houses. IU staff arrive at their houses to administer the tests.
Carroll said mitigation tests are usually planned and distributed on a weekly basis. People selected for mitigation testing are usually notified by email on Fridays to select their testing day for the next week.
By comparing data on a weekly basis, people have a more complete picture of the COVID-19 situation on IU campuses, Carroll said.
Because test results take several days after the test to process, Carroll said the results of an entire week usually come back by Monday the following week. The university announced Friday that the dashboard will now be updated Wednesday instead of Monday.
Carroll said IU is ramping up its on-campus labs for processing COVID-19 tests and expects to have three labs by mid-October, capable of processing up to 15,000 tests in total per day. This would amount to more tests than the rest of Indiana and allow students to be tested once or twice each week.
Why is the COVID-19 positivity rate higher in greek houses than elsewhere, such as in residence halls?
COVID-19 positivity rates in greek houses are significantly higher than anywhere else on campus, Carroll said. He added off-campus greek students have higher positivity rates than other off-campus students.
The university has not specified how many cases each residence hall has.
Carroll said lifestyles in greek houses and level of socialization among greek students might be among the possible reasons to explain their higher positivity rates.
“Everyone in a greek house wants to be with the people in that house,” he said. “It’s different.”
Responding to complaints about IU shifting standards for greek living arrangements, Carroll said the university asked greek houses over the summer to significantly de-densify their houses and set aside enough space for quarantining and isolation, but many greek houses were very quickly overwhelmed by student residents.
Carroll said IU cannot take action against the greek houses since they are not IU properties, but the Monroe County Health Department can order them to shut down.
Are the majority of COVID-related deaths falsely reported?
No, Carroll said.
One of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s weekly updates read, “For 6% of the deaths, COVID-19 was the only cause mentioned.”
This suggests for the rest of the deaths reported, preexisting conditions and other afflictions caused by the coronavirus are also underlying conditions of death, just as the coronavirus itself.
“We’re underestimating, not overestimating the number of deaths,” Carroll said about the national death count.
He also said it is shortsighted to see death as the only bad outcome from COVID-19. Chronic symptoms and long recovery periods are also outcomes people should be aware of, he said.