Coronavirus: First wave of Miami dorm cases expected, won’t change on-campus living

According to Miami University officials more than one third of the school's student residence floors are listed as being at the highest level of alert for students testing positive for the coronavirus. (File Photo\Journal-News)

The recent climb in the number of Miami University students testing positive for coronavirus didn’t surprise school officials, who closely watched other colleges nationwide and their earlier struggles.

But unlike some universities across America, Miami officials said Tuesday they are not anticipating they will have to order thousands of students living on campus to return home.

Earlier this week, more than one-third of Miami’s 35 main campus student residence buildings reported floors where enough students had tested positive to earn the school’s highest alert level of purple.

ExploreCoronavirus update: More than a third of Miami dorms at most serious level

“Based on what we have seen at other universities, we expected to see an increase in COVID-19 cases when our students came on campus,” said Carole Johnson, spokeswoman for Miami University.

“That is why we are being aggressive in our testing in a calculated and targeted way. We developed our residence hall color-coding system to help us identify and communicate areas of increased risk so students can take extra precautions to avoid infection."

Of Miami’s 35 residence halls on its main Oxford campus, 13 – or 38 percent – have some floors listed in the purple category, which is the highest alert level per a new coronavirus testing measurement installed by the school last week.

According to Miami’s coronavirus dashboard, the purple Level 4 category means at each residence hall “at least one floor with at least 5 percent tested positive in the last seven days and statistical evidence of a cluster.”

“Currently over half of our students are living in residence halls that have the lowest possible rating (yellow or orange) and do not anticipate requiring students to leave campus,” she said.

The student halls listed with floors at a purple Level 4 are: Anderson; Brandon; Clawson; Dennison; Emerson; Flower; Hahne; Havighurst; McBride; Minnich; Morris; Ogden and Symmes as of Monday.

According to the Monday update on Miami’s dashboard there were 41 new student cases from the previous dashboard update and a cumulative total 1,795 students testing positive for coronavirus since Aug. 17.

Of the 1,795, the “estimated cumulative recovered” has been 1,383 students.

There have been no reports to date of a Miami student being hospitalized for the coronavirus.

There are just more than half of the usual 8,000 students now living in residence halls on Miami’s main Oxford campus, school officials have reported.

Besides their own techniques, Miami learned from other schools in creating their prevention and monitoring models, which they have modified to respond to the changing infection-rate data.

“We also are vigilant in reminding students to follow the guidelines to wear face coverings, maintain proper physical distancing and refrain from gathering in groups,” said Johnson. “Our latest guidance urges them to keep groups smaller than four and to wear masks at all times, except in their residence hall room and while actively eating.”

“Along with our color-code system for testing, we implemented our Remain in Room plan for residence halls that are experiencing an elevated level of positive cases to help mitigate the spread of the virus.”

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