University of Iowa dentistry student self-identifies as first positive COVID-19 case on campus


Emily Wangen

The UI College of Dentistry and Dental Clinics building is seen on July 17, 2019.

Marissa Payne, Editor-in-Chief

A University of Iowa student in the College of Dentistry has self-identified they tested positive for COVID-19, according to a UI email sent to campus Thursday.

The College of Dentistry student shared the news with college leadership, who immediately contacted Johnson County Public Health, according to the email. Those with whom the student had close contact have been identified and notified, including a single patient seen by the student while the student was symptomatic.

This student was last on campus at the College of Dentistry March 12, does not live in the residence halls, and is now self-isolating in an off-campus location, according to the email.

“In addition, the College of Dentistry has communicated with students, faculty, and staff, and is providing support to the student who has tested positive and everyone in the college as needed,” stated the email, which was signed by interim UI Student Health Director Paul Natvig and Campus Health Officer Daniel Fick. “The college also disinfects all operatories, etc., after routine protocol for blood-borne pathogens and has intensified these efforts.”

The email stated it is not the Iowa Department of Public Health’s practice to notify employers or institutions of a positive case.

“The university is able to share this news because the student self-identified, but the university will NOT be able to report each time a member of the UI community tests positive moving forward,” the message said.

The email advised that people do not need to be tested unless individuals have had direct contact with someone who has tested positive and have symptoms such as fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. With testing currently limited, the email says health-care providers can determine whether individuals need testing or treatment.

Gov. Kim Reynolds in a series of videos Wednesday that Iowans who believe they might have the coronavirus should stay home and rest, rather than immediately going to the clinics to be tested. State Medical Director Caitlin Pedati also said in the videos that not everyone will need to be tested — around 80 percent of those infected will have mild symptoms, and can recover by staying home, she said.

But the U.S. has come under scrutiny for lagging in testing as the number of positive COVID-19 cases continues to increase. The New York Times reported Tuesday that recent data show “about 125 people per million have been tested in the United States — far fewer than most other countries where data is available.” Without fully testing, critics of the government’s slow response to boost testing and respond to the spread of the novel coronavirus say it’s unknown how many COVID-19 cases there actually are.

The email provides the following advice for those who believe they may have been exposed to the virus or are experiencing symptoms:

DO NOT walk in to QuickCare, Student Health, any UI Health Care clinic, the State Hygienic Lab or any emergency room. Instead, follow these procedures:

It is important to know that your privacy will be maintained by your provider.

Social distancing is how the community can stop the virus from spreading. Remain out of congregate settings, avoid mass gatherings, and maintain safe distance (approximately 6 feet or 2 meters) from others when possible.