Two days before the bulk of students are expected to arrive for the fall semester, UND has 71 active cases of COVID-19 tied to the university, according to the university’s coronavirus blog.
The university said in a statement that, as of 2 p.m. Thursday, seven of the positive cases are in relation to six of its Greek chapters -- Alpha Phi sorority, Delta Gamma sorority, Gamma phi Beta sorority, Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity, Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity and Delta Tau Delta fraternity.
UND said because of the congregate living settings of those organizations, everyone else who lives in the houses is considered a close contact to those who’ve tested positive and would need to undergo quarantining procedures.
University leaders are working with fraternity and sorority members and alumni to support the impacted students.
“This is the very reason why we have been testing so aggressively on our campus,” President Andrew Armacost said in a statement. “Testing and then quickly quarantining and isolating affected individuals are tried-and-true methods to help prevent further spread of the virus. I can’t stress enough that getting back to normal requires all of us to work together, cooperate and engage in best practices on campus and in the community.”
Active cases associated with UND have been on the rise in the past week. On Friday, Aug. 14, the university had 10 active cases. Over the weekend, that number rose to 38; now it is 71.
The positive cases don't necessarily mean the individuals are or have recently been on campus. But they indicate a person is a student, faculty or staff member.
In the last 14 days, UND has had 79 active cases, including one faculty member, two staff members and 76 students.
UND spokesman David Dodds said the active case number includes cases associated with UND, even if they are off of campus or in another city or state. UND students and employees can self-report that they tested positive for the virus, so some numbers may come from there.
“You may have a number of students who may be in Bismarck or elsewhere who haven't come to campus but may have tested positive in their hometown and are using that mechanism to self report that way,” he said, noting that could apply to students who are out-of-state as well.
UND's website notes that "confirmed and active cases at UND should not be considered exhaustive. The numbers reflected are to the best of the university’s knowledge."
Meloney Linder, vice president for marketing and communications at UND, said the university has done a lot of testing in recent weeks and UND administration anticipated having some positive cases. It did not, however, have a number projection.
“We did not have a projection mapped out,” she said. “I wouldn't say that we anticipated it would be this many or more or less. We're testing and dealing with the numbers that we're finding when they come to campus and get tested.”
While some students already have begun to move in, Saturday marks move-in day for a large percentage of on-campus students. In four days, on Monday, Aug. 24, UND is set to start classes.
“All positive cases are concerning,” Linder said. “The thing about the testing that's important is it's helping us identify those positive cases and close contacts because then we're able to do the quarantining and the isolation. The hope of that is to slow community spread."
North Dakota State University's website lists three positive cases associated with campus in the past two weeks.
“Students and employees are asked to complete the COVID-19 reporting form if they have tested positive or have been notified by a state health department official that they have been identified as a close contact to someone that has tested positive for COVID-19,” Brynn Rawlings, media relations coordinator for NDSU, said in an email. “These statistics reflect information available to the university, in cooperation with local and state health departments.”
Linder said she couldn’t speak to NDSU’s numbers. She said UND has been consistently reporting its cases in the same way since March. She added that UND is working on a new dashboard for cases that the university aims to roll out in the next few days.
Earlier this week, UND announced that 29 athletes had tested positive for COVID-19.
UND athletic director Bill Chaves said Monday that more than 200 athletes had been tested at that time. The athletics department chose to pause workouts for the rest of the week.
At that time, 42 students were in hotel spaces in quarantine or isolation, according to UND spokesman David Dodds. That total includes international students who are required to quarantine after arriving in the United States.
As of 2:30 p.m., Thursday, the university has 31 individuals in hotel isolation and 24 in hotel quarantine.