North Texas Daily

COVID-19 cases rise in Denton, on campus

COVID-19 cases rise in Denton, on campus

COVID-19 cases rise in Denton, on campus
September 14
11:24 2021

As the COVID-19 delta variant continues to sweep through the country, cases in North Texas are on the rise.

Denton County Public Health announced 805 new cases on Sept. 13, bringing the county’s total to 94,032 with 13,914 being active cases.

Denton’s cases are increasing faster than nearby counties like Collin County, which has an estimated 4,558 active cases as of Sept. 13, or Wise County, which only has an estimated 384 active cases.

Since the beginning of the fall semester, the university alone reported 590 COVID-19 cases on campus, an additional 148 of which are active as of Sept. 10.

“We are seeing a number of breakthrough cases,” said Kerry Stanhope, assistant director for the Meadows Center for Health Resources.

The university had a steady increase of positive COVID-19 tests the first week of class, jumping from 86 positive tests on Aug. 20 to 177 on Aug. 27.

Another 197 positive tests reported Sept. 3 became the largest amount so far and the latest update on Sept. 10 showed 94 positive cases.

The university health and wellness center administers COVID-19 tests to students almost daily, stopping at 300 tests per day in order to send out same-day results, according to Stanhope. The center also provides free shots for individuals looking to get vaccinated.

For unvaccinated students or faculty, COVID-19 testing within designated intervals is mandatory. Other North Texas colleges have similar programs – Texas Woman’s University has weekly mandatory testing for unvaccinated individuals and Southern Methodist University has contact tracing and on-campus quarantine locations for students who test positive.

Vaccinated or not, the university encourages everyone to continue wearing face masks to protect against the virus as thousands of students attend in-person classes for the first time in a year and a half.

“I’m taking four classes this semester,” communications junior Everett Grey said. “I feel like I’m waiting to get the notification that I’ve been in contact with someone.”

The notification Grey referred to is the university’s contact tracing system that determines who may have been in contact with an individual who tested positive for COVID-19.

“I think I’m really lucky in this, my teachers have actually done the assigned seating,” Grey said. “In the event that we need to be contact traced, it’s not going to be like, ‘Oh, did I sit next to John on Wednesday?’ I sat next to my little bubble, so they know it’s you.”

Being able to determine who COVID-19 positive students came in contact with can be difficult to track. The university is estimated to have a roughly 1 percent increase in enrollment from last year’s record-breaking 40,796 students.

“We’re a public school in a state that disregards public safety,” said Grant Johnson, political science senior and Student Government Association senator.

Johnson has a little sister in the large freshman class that is coming to campus for the first time, most of whom are living in residence halls that are already seeing some positive cases.

“The dorms are hot pockets for the COVID virus,” Johnson said. “From what I understand is because it’s very hard to self-quarantine.”

The university recommends quarantining for 10 days after a positive test but only offers on-campus quarantining to certain students.

For some individuals on campus, opening the university up was worth the risks after multiple semesters of virtual learning.

“The campus closure had significant impacts on academic performance of students as well as on the mental health of our students and our staff,” Stanhope said.

As of Sept. 9, the university has no plans to return to an online semester, but Stanhope said the success of in-person learning and campus events during the pandemic depends on people doing their best to stay safe.

“We need everyone to play their part and take the precautions necessary to really try and make sure that [in person activities] are essential, and that they’re done in a safe way as we can to ensure the safety of our campus community,” Stanhope said.

Featured Image: A discarded mask lies on the ground outside of the Life Sciences Complex Building on Sept. 9, 2021. Photo by Jami Hitchcock

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Alex Reece

Alex Reece

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