Members of the University community undoubtedly have legitimate interests in information about the status and impact of the pandemic within our campus communities in Athens and elsewhere. At the same time, individual faculty, staff, and students have strong interests in the privacy of their own sensitive health information, and we are legally obligated to keep that information confidential. The University’s objective is to share relevant and reliable data to inform our campus community while also respecting individual privacy and preventing confusion.
With the reopening of campus starting August 10, 2020, at the recommendation of the University’s Medical Oversight Task Force, the University began conducting COVID-19 testing on campus to help identify individuals who do not have COVID-19 symptoms but who may spread the virus to others. This type of testing–called “surveillance testing”–focuses on asymptomatic members of the campus community and is voluntary and at no cost to participants. The plan calls for 24,000 tests to be conducted by Thanksgiving at a rate of up to 300 tests per day on samples collected from faculty, staff, and students who volunteer. The University Health Center is conducting the sampling at Legion Field, with specimen analysis to be performed by the Veterinary Medicine Diagnostic Lab, which recently earned certification to process human samples.
This program will allow us to share weekly aggregate data about the test results. Starting August 19 on this page, we will begin providing summaries of the previous week’s surveillance testing data, and the summaries will be updated every Wednesday.
Also coinciding with the reopening of campus starting August 10, 2020, the University implemented a tool called DawgCheck (accessed through the UGA Mobile App or the DawgCheck mobile-friendly website) to give members of the campus community the ability to self-monitor and to facilitate information sharing internally and with the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH). While the symptom check is strongly encouraged, any student or employee with a positive COVID-19 test is required to report the test in DawgCheck.
Starting August 19 on this page, we will begin providing a weekly total of positive test results reported through DawgCheck for the previous week. The weekly total will be updated every Wednesday.
In addition to the data reported above, we encourage you to access the Georgia Department of Public Health’s (GDPH) website. The GDPH collects and posts data specific to all 159 Georgia counties on its Daily Status Report. You can scroll to the state map and hover over the desired county to see the latest information on count and trend lines.
When UGA learns of positive cases, they are reported to the GDPH in a timely manner and in the county where individuals are currently located. Therefore, the GDPH Daily Status Report provides members of our community an accurate and relevant assessment of the number of cases in the areas where they live and work.
Guided by the Centers for Disease Control and the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH), the University of Georgia is following established protocols for contact investigation and notification of impacted individuals. Consistent with those protocols, DPH oversees contact tracing and notification of persons who have had close contact with individuals in question.
The University has established a more robust relationship with DPH as DPH has ramped up its resources, with identified liaisons between UGA and DPH to facilitate information sharing. Contact tracing by DPH will be facilitated by case identification done on campus through the DawgCheck survey tool, which was implemented on August 10. Precursor information provided through DawgCheck–e.g., names and contact information of others who might have been exposed—flows to DPH in real time securely through the survey tool.
If you are deemed by DPH to have increased risk because of exposure to these individuals, DPH has the responsibility to notify you. In many cases, affected individuals may reach out to other individuals personally to make them aware. Notifications of positive tests will continue to be provided on a local level within units at UGA, as warranted.
When the University moved classes online in March 2020 and first became aware that members of our community tested positive for COVID-19, the University Health Center began providing a daily update on total positive cases for UGA students and employees. This total included any positive tests reported to the Health Center for the more than 50,000 faculty, staff, and students connected to the University of Georgia, whether located in Athens, extended campuses, extension offices across the state, or even the hometowns of students across the country or abroad. Many of the infections included in this total were individuals who had not been on campus since the onset of the pandemic; there were often delays in reporting information to the Health Center; and a cumulative total necessarily includes individuals who have recovered. For these reasons, this cumulative total was never intended to serve as an accurate barometer of the current status of COVID-19 at UGA at any point in time.
Within these parameters, from March 2020 to the reopening that began August 10, 2020, the Health Center reported that a total of 457 UGA faculty, staff, and students across Georgia and beyond, not limited to Athens, tested positive for COVID-19. As referenced above, with the reopening of campus, the University implemented a new testing program and reporting protocols that allow more meaningful and reliable data sharing, consistent with privacy concerns.
Please do not publicly identify impacted individuals—even if you believe you or others know who they are — so they can focus completely on their health. As a community, we should support these individuals and one another through this incredibly difficult time, while respecting individual privacy.