Auburn University sees 4 percent COVID-19 positivity rate from student reentry testing

Published: August 27, 2020
Font Size

Article body

Results from Auburn University’s COVID-19 student reentry testing, which began weeks ago and ended Aug. 21, show there was a 4 percent positivity rate of the disease among students as they returned for classes.

In final numbers released Thursday, Auburn had a total of 859 positive tests out of a total of 21,315 administered for a 4.03 percent positivity rate. Of those who tested positive the vast majority were either asymptomatic or exhibited extremely mild conditions. Many of the positive cases were identified in students who were not on campus, and in accordance with its A Healthier U reentry plan Auburn took immediate action to quarantine and isolate those cases that were found on campus.

“These numbers show we had a low positivity rate among our students as they returned to campus,” said Fred Kam, Auburn’s Medical Clinic director. “Through continued mitigation efforts and everyone’s help in being proactive we aim to keep these numbers low.”

The tests were required as part of the state’s GuideSafe™ platform and in tandem with the A Healthier U reentry plan. The free tests were offered at 14 locations throughout the state, including Auburn’s Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum. The GuideSafe™ reentry testing data reflects only student tests in the weeks leading up to the return for the fall semester and ending Aug. 21. Those figures are a snapshot view of what was being seen in the student population in the leadup to classes and the first week of the semester, but those numbers do not reflect the most current view of conditions.

Auburn’s COVID-19 Health and Exposure webpage, which is updated weekly by Auburn’s Campus Safety and Security Department, offers the most current COVID-19 data as it is reported through the Auburn University Medical Clinic and self-reports. That online listing of data has not included the GuideSafe reentry testing information to date as officials awaited GuideSafe’s final numbers. For the week of Aug. 15-21—the most recent weekly data available—Auburn’s Campus Safety and Security Department received 207 new reports of COVID-19 cases not affiliated with the GuideSafe reentry testing. Of those new reports, five were employees and 202 were students.

Such tracking of additional COVID-19 cases will continue as they come in through the Auburn University Medical Clinic, the Alabama Department of Public Health and those in the campus community who fill out the university’s online self-report form

“Not unlike other campuses throughout the nation, Auburn anticipated that its COVID-19 positive case numbers would likely increase as students returned for the fall semester,” Kam said. “The majority of students who tested positive had not attended any in-person classes, and the few who did were all wearing masks and had been socially distancing.”

Kam said no hospitalizations were required among those new cases, and he added that “We will closely monitor the number of positive cases in a proactive way that helps guide university policy with the health and well-being of the Auburn community always the top priority.”

Bobby Woodard, senior vice president for Student Affairs, is calling on the help of Auburn students to do their part in helping keep the university’s COVID-19 numbers down. 

“COVID is truly a situation in which every individual’s actions count,” he said. “If we are going to preserve on-campus education, we have to be all-in, both on and off campus. One night out in a crowd is not worth the potential consequences the entire campus will face if the virus continues to spread in our community. We must be vigilant in doing our part for the common good. This will not be forever.”

In addition to the university recently launching its online self-reporting form, Auburn also plans to initiate sentinel testing the week after Labor Day, whereby students, faculty and staff will be randomly selected to voluntarily participate.

“We are committed to prioritize the safety and well-being of our campus community,” Kam said. “And as the early GuideSafe™ reentry test results give us a good snapshot of our starting point, we know ongoing monitoring is essential as is the support of our community in following the needed safeguards of our A Healthier U plan to be on a good path toward a safer and successful fall semester.”

The GuideSafe™ testing component is among numerous other measures the university is implementing as part of its A Healthier U reentry plan, including a requirement of face coverings indoors and outdoors, frequent and enhanced cleaning of facilities, plexiglass guards where needed, safe physical distancing in classrooms, the flexibility of several instructional modalities and helpful protocol signage throughout campus. To further encourage healthy behaviors, all on-campus students, faculty and staff received an A Heathier U wellness kit that included a reusable face covering and hand sanitizer.

Auburn has partnered with institutions across the state to implement the GuideSafe™ platform of tools designed to facilitate a safe return to campus. An integral part of the A Healthier U plan, GuideSafe™ leverages a three-step approach to safeguarding campus health that includes the required COVID-19 entry testing for all students who are on campus, completing the required daily Healthcheck to self-screen for virus symptoms and encouraging use of Exposure Notification, a Google- and Apple-developed app that anonymously alerts users of potential exposure to someone with coronavirus.

Additionally, Auburn created the COVID-19 Resource Center, a centralized on-campus hub for questions from students, faculty, staff and parents regarding COVID-19. The campus community may self-report positive COVID-19 test results, receive answers to COVID-related human resource questions and learn more about Healthcheck passes, isolation and quarantine procedures and other frequently asked questions. 

To contact Auburn’s COVID-19 Resource Center, call 334-844-6000 or visit the center’s website at For more information on Auburn’s reentry plan involving academics, students and operations, go to

Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for its commitment to world-class scholarship, interdisciplinary research with an elite, top-tier Carnegie R1 classification, life-changing outreach with Carnegie’s Community Engagement designation and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 30,000 students, and its faculty and research partners collaborate to develop and deliver meaningful scholarship, science and technology-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs. Auburn’s commitment to active student engagement, professional success and public/private partnership drives a growing reputation for outreach and extension that delivers broad economic, health and societal impact.