Campus Coronavirus News

UH reporting fewer coronavirus cases than other Texas schools

The University has reported fewer confirmed coronavirus cases than other Texas universities with similar student populations. | Courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Despite its location in a coronavirus hotspot, the number of confirmed cases reported in the UH community has crawled upward since March, a sharp contrast to steadily rising COVID-19 cases reported by other Texas colleges

The University has counted 214 total coronavirus cases since March as of Sept. 23, while the University of Texas has reported 1,154 total cases as of Sept. 21 and Texas A&M University has counted 1,364 positive cases from Aug. 8 to Sept. 19 alone. 

With the majority of students, faculty and staff residing off-campus, how would the University know whether confirmed coronavirus cases in the community spike to similar levels? 

The University relies on community members to self-report confirmed coronavirus cases through the Reporting COVID-19 Diagnosis/Symptoms form, regardless of whether they live on or off campus. The information gathered forms the basis for the University’s COVID-19 dashboard, which updates the confirmed coronavirus case count Monday through Friday. 

“We depend on the UH community to follow protocols and report a positive test or diagnosis,” said UH spokesperson Shawn Lindsey. “We have no way of knowing about cases that are not reported to the University.” 

The University’s large commuter population and the reduced number of students present on campus could also play a role in reducing viral spread.

Out of the undergraduates enrolled at the University, 83 percent live off-campus. 

“We know that the virus spreads mainly from person-to-person, so there is no question that reducing the number of people who are on campus and implementing social distancing requirements in buildings has helped reduce the spread of the virus,” Lindsey said. 

Some students have concerns that the University’s count of confirmed coronavirus cases may not account for all cases in the UH community, specifically due to a lack of mandatory coronavirus testing. Management information systems junior Alysia Sombillo thinks that the absence of compulsory testing might result in underreporting. 

“I feel as though the number of cases reported on campus may not be accurate unless students staying on campus are getting tested every week like other universities,” Sombillo said. 

Mechanical engineering sophomore Luke Westerfield said that the number of coronavirus cases reported at the University would be higher due to the high volume of confirmed coronavirus cases in the Houston area. 

“I think UH is probably not reporting the full number of COVID-19 cases, largely due to the fact we don’t have mandatory testing across campus,” Westerfield said. “Maybe UH has just gotten lucky.” 

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