UVa Petri Dish Update

by James A. Bacon

About a month ago I suggested that the University of Virginia would make an interesting real-world experiment in the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccination mandates during the Delta Variant phase of the epidemic. The Ryan administration required vaccinations for all students, allowing only a handful of medical and religious exceptions. Vaccinations were “strongly encouraged” for faculty and staff. Students who failed to comply were “unenrolled.” As of late August, 97% of students had gotten the jab, as did 92% of teaching and research faculty.

So, how are things working out?

Surprisingly, according to figures found on UVa’s COVID dashboard, confirmed cases reported during the first 15 days of September this year ran higher than during the same period last year — 306 cases compared to 232. Since the 15th, it appears that the incidence of new cases has tailed off somewhat in comparison to last year, when cases continued to rise. It is not clear, though, if the apparent decline represents an actual slowdown in the spread of the COVID-19 virus over the past several days or the difference between partial numbers due to reporting delays this year compared to complete numbers last year.
Any conclusions, therefore, must be considered highly preliminary and subject to updates and revisions. Also, b
ear in mind one big difference between this year and last. Last fall, classes were held remotely. This year they are being held in person.

Drill a little deeper, and the numbers reveal some differences between the viral spread among students and faculty/staff. The positivity rate (percent of tests proving positive for the presence of the virus) is significantly higher for faculty/staff than for students — about 3.5% for faculty/staff compared to 0.7% for students. On the other hand, students still account for about two-thirds of confirmed cases. The seven-day moving average of COVID cases for students peaked around 16 daily, about twice as high as the rate for faculty/staff.

All factors considered, it is hard to detect much difference at this point in time between the spread of the epidemic between September 2021 and 2020.

Remember, the Board of Visitors awarded President Jim Ryan a financial bonus largely on the university’s record for handling the COVID-19 epidemic. The vaccination mandate raises tremendous concerns about the violation of individual liberties, and it can be justified, if at all, only if it proves to be a boon to public safety and health. At present, the jury is still out.

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5 responses to “UVa Petri Dish Update”

  1. dick dyas Avatar

    The positivity rate for faculty/staff is the eye-opener. That should also be around .7%. Need to dig deeper into that area. ( I bet it is non-reporting of non-vaxxer faculty.)

  2. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
    Dick Hall-Sizemore

    One explanation for the increase at the beginning of school could be students who had been exposed to the Delta variant before reporting to campus. In person classes would account for more of these folks being on campus than last year.

    Also, because classes are being held in person this year, rather than virtual as was the case last fall, it will be difficult to compare the two periods.

  3. Not a shocker. Just look at high vaccinated Israel.

  4. LarrytheG Avatar

    Did you forget the advent of the Delta Variant? I don’t understand this obsession about this. What’s the point?

    Ryan is doing the best he can based on what he knows from the science – which is still evolving.

    And you want to compare last year to this year when how many variables are in play?

    morning morning quarterbacking mixed with what-a-boutism… what next?

  5. “Also, bear in mind one big difference between this year and last. Last fall, classes were held remotely. This year they are being held in person.”

    Plus the restriction on group sizes and Alpha vs Delta

    Meaningless comparison.

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