Title

Characteristics of student SARS-CoV-2 cases on an urban university campus: An Observational Study

Authors

Megan Landry, Office of the Dean, Milken Institute School of Public Health, The George Washington University, 950 New Hampshire Ave NW, 7th Floor, Washington, US.
Amita Vyas, Department of Prevention and Community Health, Milken Institute School of Public Health, The George Washington University, 950 New Hampshire Ave NW, 3rd Floor, Washington, US.
Nitasha Nagaraj, Department of Prevention and Community Health, Milken Institute School of Public Health, The George Washington University, 950 New Hampshire Ave NW, 3rd Floor, Washington, US.
Gary A. Sardon, Department of Epidemiology, Milken Institute School of Public Health, The George Washington University, Washington, US.
Sydney Bornstein, Department of Epidemiology, Milken Institute School of Public Health, The George Washington University, Washington, US.
Hannah Latif, Department of Prevention and Community Health, Milken Institute School of Public Health, The George Washington University, 950 New Hampshire Ave NW, 3rd Floor, Washington, US.
Padmini Kucherlapaty, Department of Prevention and Community Health, Milken Institute School of Public Health, The George Washington University, 950 New Hampshire Ave NW, 3rd Floor, Washington, US.
Karen McDonnell, Department of Prevention and Community Health, Milken Institute School of Public Health, The George Washington University, 950 New Hampshire Ave NW, 3rd Floor, Washington, US.
Amanda Castel, Department of Epidemiology, Milken Institute School of Public Health, The George Washington University, Washington, US.
Lynn Goldman, Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, Milken Institute School of Public Health, The George Washington University, Washington, US.

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date

8-16-2022

Journal

Interactive journal of medical research

DOI

10.2196/39230

Abstract

BACKGROUND: Academic institutions are central hubs for young adults, laden with academic and social interactions, and communal living arrangements, heightening the risk of transmission of many communicable diseases, including COVID-19. Shortly after the start of the Fall 2020 academic year, institutions of higher learning were identified as hotspots for rises in COVID-19 incidence among young adults. OBJECTIVE: This analysis aims to identify the characteristics of student SARS-CoV-2 cases, identify the extent to which the student population adhered to preventative strategies, and examine behaviors that would put them at higher risk of contracting or spreading COVID-19. METHODS: This observational study comprises 1,175 university students at The George Washington University (GWU) in Washington, DC, with a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis between August 3, 2020, and November 30, 2021. Case investigation and contact tracing tools were developed by the Campus COVID-19 Support Team and captured in REDCap. Trained case investigators were notified of a case and attempted to contact all cases within 24 hours of the case receiving their lab result. Associations between case characteristics and number of contacts were examined using Wilcoxon Rank Sum tests. Knowledge of exposure, behaviors since exposure, and student residence status, and fraternity and sorority life affiliation were examined using Chi-Square tests. RESULTS: Positive student cases reported a median of three close contacts and 84.6% reported at least one symptom with a median of four COVID-19 symptoms. Congestion (53.4%), cough (45.1%), and headache (41.2%) were the most frequently reported symptoms. Thirty-six percent reported that they did not know how they were exposed to the virus. Among those aware of contact with a COVID-19 confirmed case, 55.1% reported the contact was a close friend or family member and 25.3% reported that it was someone with whom they lived. Athletes (vs. non-athletes), on-campus (vs. off-campus), and undergraduate (vs. graduate) students all reported a significantly higher number of contacts (P<.01). Students living on campus were more likely to report attending campus events in the two days prior to symptom onset or positive test result (P=.004). Students with fraternity/sorority affiliation were more likely to report attending campus events in the two days prior to symptom onset or positive test result (P<.001). CONCLUSIONS: COVID-19 cases have not yet stabilized to a predictable state, but this study provides case characteristics and insights for how academic institutions might prepare to mitigate outbreaks on their campuses as the world plans for the transition from pandemic to endemic COVID-19. CLINICALTRIAL: None

Department

Environmental and Occupational Health

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