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JSU begins posting COVID-19 numbers online

Jacksonville State University is tracking 44 active cases of COVID-19, according to the university’s coronavirus task force, as schools around Alabama began to release results this week from GuideSafe testing.

JSU began its fall semester Tuesday, bringing students back to campus for in-person, online and hybrid classes (a blend of the two). On Thursday, the school had posted an online dashboard with a count of its active COVID cases. Like other colleges and universities in the state, students were required to participate in GuideSafe testing for COVID-19 before classes resumed.

Jeff Ryan, an emergency management instructor at JSU and head of the university’s COVID-19 task force, calculated that the number of JSU students who tested positive was well under 1 percent of the total students tested, JSU spokeswoman Buffy Lockette wrote in an email.

“Currently, JSU students being testing in the GuideSafe program have exhibited a positivity rate of 0.48 percent,” Lockette wrote.

Attempts to reach Ryan directly were unsuccessful Friday. 

Tracking the effect of those cases on local communities might be a confusing job. Michael Barton, director of the Calhoun County Emergency Management Agency and a key figure in the county’s COVID-19 response groups, said he had learned from the Alabama Department of Public Health that positive cases will be reported not in the county where students go to school, but in the counties where they list their permanent residence. Many JSU students are from outside Calhoun County, or even outside the state, a concern Barton said he had also discussed during a live Q&A broadcast Monday

Friday, he wrote via text message that positive cases in college students are likely to be counted in-county anyway.

“If all the address the individual being tested provides is the local address, it would be the only address available and most likely be counted locally,” Barton wrote. “I believe that the most effective and accurate place to count it is locally, because that is where the case actually is at. It helps to identify and isolate the problem and provide the appropriate response and resources to that area.” 

Other universities in Alabama announced COVID cases this week; a press release from the University of Alabama states that campus had a total of 237 positive students out of nearly 26,000 who were tested by Aug. 16

Auburn University had a total of 41 cases between Aug. 8 and Aug. 14, according to the school’s COVID-19 breakdown; 32 students and eight employees tested positive at the school’s main campus in Lee County, with another student testing positive at the Harrison School of Pharmacy campus in Mobile. 

Calhoun County’s cumulative case count grew to 2,086 as of Friday morning, according to ADPH, 14 more cases than the day before, with 385 new cases in the last 14 days. Meanwhile, the state reached a total of 107,804 cases, 321 more than the previous day. 

Local testing events continue Aug. 27 with a drive-thru testing site at Iron City Baptist Church in White Plains, located at 41 Mandy Lane (an Anniston address). The event will last four hours, from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m., is free, and open to anyone in the public who is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or has been exposed to someone with the virus.