The COVID-19 numbers at Pittsburg State University experienced an uptick at the beginning of the semester due to students returning to campus, but according to medical director Kathleen Sandness, the number of positive cases has decreased dramatically.
The Bryant Student Health Center has tested roughly 907 students between Aug. 14 and Sept. 21, and throughout that period, the Center has monitored nearly 1000 students in isolation or quarantine. Those in isolation are those that have tested positive for COVID-19 and those in quarantine are those that have had close contact with those individuals. In addition to medical staff at the Health Center, the operations related to COVID-19 are also handled by COVID-19 case manager Taylor Panczer who coordinates with the various offices and institutions within Pittsburg State University that are affected by student quarantines, including Sodexo, professors teaching classes, and residence halls.
“Our testing numbers have been going down,” Panczer said. “We were testing about 20 to 40 students a day and now we’re testing about eight… We were doing a full day clinic and now we only have to do a half day clinic. Our isolation numbers have gone down about to half…”
Unlike the more popularly recognized COVID-19 test that goes up the nose and collects nasal material for testing, the staff at the Bryant Student Health Center use a safer method for both students and medical professionals.
“The COVID virus likes to live deep down in the lungs… so what we do is we have people cough for two minutes, collect it, and… we test for viral particles,” Sandness said. “It’s very specific, meaning that if its positive, it’s positive. It’s quite sensitive with very excellent correlation. We do that rather than the nasopharyngeal swab which is uncomfortable for the patient and it’s risky for the medical professional because it induces coughing, and you have to be in close proximity to give it… We give people a vial and have them go cough outside… So that we’re not in communication with those particles…”
As of Wednesday, Sept. 23, the number of total cases in isolation was 160, down from 548 the previous week, with a majority of those cases in the 25 to 44 age rage. According to the Crawford County Health Department, there are 6 deaths due to COVID-19, but the community impact is at a moderate level and impact on local K-12 schools is at a low level.
“We’re down to about a 5% positivity rate,” Sandness said. “…The students have really taken to heart after the initial exuberance, that this is easy to spread, it’s easy to communicate… They found out in their own lives how easy it was to catch it and that it’s not very much fun to have it… Most students are pretty asymptomatic but most of them have some sort of lingering illness… I think we’ve done an excellent job recently with being more responsible and compliant…”