U of L officials release limited COVID-19 data Tuesday, Oct 13 2020 

By Joseph Garcia —

The University of Louisville is experiencing a spike of COVID-19 cases and university officials won’t share more information beyond what’s on the testing dashboard. Over the past four weeks, the positivity rate has remained above 2%, it’s highest was 4.38%.

Since the university started testing, there have been 653 total positive cases of the coronavirus as of Oct. 13. Yesterday, however, this number was 697. The university also updated the total number of administered tests, removing 1,593 tests.

U of L Director of Communications John Karman said that he would get back with more information on why these cases and tests were removed. At the time of writing he has yet to respond.

Out of the now nearly 35,000 tests administered, and only a few weeks left of the semester, it is still unknown how many active cases there are currently.

The Kentucky Office of Public Health requires universities to send information daily on their COVID-19 data. On Aug. 5, the Cardinal reported that according to the data sheet on the Governor’s website, U of L had 140 active cases.

Dr. Phillip Bressoud, executive director of Campus Health Services, said these numbers are not accurate.

“The state’s website isn’t even close to accurate.  [The number of] total tests performed, positives, negatives (total-positives), percent positive are all available on dashboard,” Bressoud said. “These are all the test results the university has or has sent to the health department.”

He has yet to provide The Cardinal with a more accurate number of active cases.

The public health office’s data sheet has also been updated and does not include information regarding the number of active and recovered cases. It now only reports the number of new cases each day along with the number of deaths and cases ever positive.

When asked to what capacity the university’s isolation spaces were occupied, Karman said while he doesn’t have specific numbers, “We have capacity available.”

“Obviously, the university knows how many students are in isolation in the 40 available beds,” Karman later added. “That is not information that is being released to the public. I’m only authorized to tell you that we do have space available.”

“The data on the dashboard is what the university has chosen to release publicly,” he said.

When asked if the university had more COVID-19 data it wasn’t sharing with the campus community, like the occupancy of isolation spaces and number of active cases, Karman said: “I can only address the data we are releasing. It’s on the dashboard.”

File Graphic // The Louisville Cardinal

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Biggest takeaways from Wednesday’s Vice Presidential debate Saturday, Oct 10 2020 

By Katie Volpentesta —

In a jam-packed news week, Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic Vice Presidential Nominee, Senator Kamala Harris had plenty to debate about on Wednesday night. Here are the most important topics of the night as well as the biggest things to take away as a college student preparing to vote in the 2020 Presidential Election.

Avoiding the questions.

In a move typical of political debates, both candidates found a way to skirt around a question they did not want to answer.

Pence avoided answering whether he felt that President Donald Trump and the White House was irresponsible by hosting Amy Coney-Barrett’s SCOTUS nomination ceremony in the White House Rose Garden, an event that turned into a COVID-19 super spreader event. He also avoided answering questions about how far he would go to roll back abortion rights and if he believes climate change poses a threat to the US.

Harris avoided talking about her past support for the Green New Deal (which her running mate Joe Biden does not support) and talking about if she supports lifting all restrictions on abortions.

Both candidates would not answer if they had discussed Trump or Biden’s possibility of becoming incapacitated due to old age during their terms as president. They also avoided answering a question about the possibility of Trump refusing a peaceful transfer of power if he loses the election.

COVID-19’s Impact.

In the past week, Trump, his wife Melania, numerous White House officials, and other Republican politicians have all tested positive for COVID-19. The debate continued as scheduled with the added caveat that Harris and Pence would be socially distanced with two layers of plexiglass between them.

Pence tested negative ahead of this debate, and Harris used this opportunity to emphasize the Trump administration’s poor handing of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Throughout the debate, Pence mentioned several people who were “here in Salt Lake City with us tonight,” implying that he has invited and been in contact with several individuals before or after the debate. If Pence were to follow CDC guidelines, he should have been in a 14-day quarantine following his close contact with Trump and others who have tested positive in the last week.

Kamala Harris as a Black woman in a VP Debate.

In a political cycle that has been dominated by white men, Harris’ presence as a black woman in a major election was felt. On multiple occasions, she asked Pence and the moderator Susan Page for equal time as her opponent and refused to let Pence cut her off while she was speaking.

“I just can’t shake how surreal it was seeing a black woman debating a white man for one of the most powerful positions in the U.S,” tweeted U of L alumna Bri Williams.

Harris set an example for young women, especially women of color, as she held her own against Pence and refused to take a back seat just because she is a woman. She was aware of how gender would play into the debate, and came prepared to defend her credentials and ensure that she had equal time to speak.

The Affordable Care Act and its Impact on College Students.

Throughout the debate, Pence and Harris argued over the fate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Pence did not detail what his and Trump’s healthcare plan would look like should it be overturned. With over 23 million people being protected under the ACA, Harris stressed that Trump and Pence’s rollbacks of the ACA would negatively impact millions.

“If you have preexisting conditions, they’re coming for you,” Harris stressed. “If you are under 26 and on your parents insurance, they are coming for you.”

Pence’s response was to attack Biden and Harris’ plans for a potential mask mandate, calling it a “government takeover of healthcare.”

Bonus: The Fly on Mike Pence’s Head.

While Pence was talking about racial justice and systemic racism, a fly landed on his head and stayed there for a whole two minutes. It trended on Twitter in real time, as celebrities, politicians and viewers alike called it the highlight of the night.

A Twitter account was created for the fly, and the Biden campaign even posted a photo of Biden with a fly swatter that says “Truth over Flies” on their website just minutes after the debate ended.

The fly stole the show, leaving some refreshed that a fly was the most interesting part of the night compared to last week’s debate fiasco.

 

Nearly every viewer of Wednesday’s VP debate can agree that it was easier to follow than last week’s presidential debate. After this debate, it’s clear that the looming COVID-19 pandemic, the future of the Affordable Care Act, and gender and race issues will continue to stick out in voters’ minds in the last month before the election.

File Graphic // The Louisville Cardinal

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Nearly 30,000 COVID-19 tests conducted at U of L Tuesday, Oct 6 2020 

By Joseph Garcia —

The University of Louisville now has 568 total positive cases of the coronavirus. This is out of almost 30,000 total tests conducted since the start of the fall semester. Of these cases, U of L reported 140 are still active cases among students, as of Oct. 5.

The cumulative positivity rate is at 1.91%.

With Fall Break now over, students, faculty and staff are again required to take a free COVID-19 test from the university.

Testing is available at these locations from Monday through Friday:

  • University Club Ballroom // 8 a.m. to noon and 1-5 p.m. (Open 6-9 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday.)
  • Cardinal Stadium Purple “A” Lot // 8 a.m. to noon and 1-5 p.m.
  • Student Recreation Center // 8 a.m. to Noon and 1-5 p.m.
  • Abell Administration Building (HSC) // 7-11 a.m. and noon to 4 p.m. (Open 6-9 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday.)

This round of mandatory testing will end on Oct. 23, however, U of L Director of Communications John Karman told the Cardinal a few weeks ago that “testing will remain available through the end of the semester.”

File Graphic // The Louisville Cardinal 

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Students: What you need to know about voting in the 2020 election Wednesday, Sep 30 2020 

By Katie Volpentesta —

The 2020 Presidential election is just six weeks away, so it’s important to be educated on voting options as well as candidates and policies down the ballot.

While the COVID-19 pandemic complicates in-person voting options, the Jefferson County Board of Elections is doing everything they can to keep Jefferson County residents informed of their options, including registering to vote, requesting and sending in a mail-in ballot, and voting in person both early or on Election Day.

“In a normal election we have about 232 locations within 623 precincts, and now with coronavirus, a lot of things have changed,” said Jordan Kelch, public relations administrator at the Jefferson County Clerk’s Office. Typically, early or mail-in voting is only allowed if a voter meets one of ten special criteria that prevent you from being able to vote on Election Day.

Instead of smaller polling locations throughout the county, the board has created four election super centers that will allow for social distanced voting in large, open areas. Early voting will take place at the Kentucky Exposition Center, the YUM! Center, the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage, and a fourth location in the east end that is yet to be announced.

Early in-person voting is from Oct. 13 to Nov. 2 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and voting on Election Day, Nov. 3, will be at the same locations from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

In order to vote either in person or via mail-in absentee ballot, residents of Jefferson County must be registered to vote. Luckily, this process is available and easily accessible online. The last day to register to vote in Kentucky is Oct. 5 at 4 p.m.

Additionally, the deadline to order a mail-in ballot in Kentucky is Oct. 9 by 11:59 p.m. These resources, as well as information on polling places, candidates and issues on your ballot, are available on the Jefferson County Clerk’s elections site.

“There’s 1,200 ballot styles for this election. Jefferson County is really large, so there’s lots of different areas with small city races,” Kelch said. “It all comes down to your legislative district and the neighborhood you live in.” The Jefferson County Clerk’s site can show you your exact ballot.

U of L’s Vote Everywhere initiative looks to keep students informed about voting options, deadlines and ways to stay informed as well. They want to ensure that students know the power of their vote and what it means to be informed.

“There’s so many deadlines and it gets really confusing, even for a student like me who is super civically engaged,” said Vote Everywhere Ambassador Wyn Garfinkle-Plymesser.

By hosting events on campus and frequently updating their Instagram page, @UofLVE, Garfinkle-Plymesser and her co-ambassador Arianna Moya engage with students and promote civic engagement within the U of L community.

“We just want to be a space where people can come and get the answers straight up and know what’s really going on,” said Garfinkle-Plymesser. “If they have any concerns about voting or their vote being suppressed, we wanna be the space that students can come to and have their concerns heard and questions answered.”

While Jefferson County is doing their best to make this election as accessible and safe as possible, Kelch recommends that residents vote early if possible and don’t procrastinate sending in a mail-in ballot.

“If you’re done and you’ve signed it completely, both the goldenrod envelope and exterior envelope, and you’ve followed all the directions and are ready to turn it in, please do so immediately,” Kelch said. “Election Day will obviously be very busy.”

For further information regarding the upcoming general election in Jefferson County, please go to elections.jeffersoncountyclerk.org.

File Graphic // The Louisville Cardinal

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COVID-19 cases spike at the University of Louisville Friday, Sep 25 2020 

By Joseph Garcia — 

This week positive COVID-19 cases at the University of Louisville have reached 468. This is out of almost 26,000 total tests administered. This week also saw the highest spike in the positivity rate for one week, which is 5.09%.

Of those 468 positive tests, Associate Athletic Director Kenny Klein said the athletics department makes up for 105 cases.

“Since student-athletes began returning to campus for voluntary activities on June 2, a total of 4,547 tests have been administered with 105 positive test results,” Klein said. “Over the past week, the University of Louisville Athletics’ COVID-19 testing program has administered 1,003 tests to student-athletes, coaches and staff with seven positive tests from that group.”

Neither Klein or U of L’s Director of Communications John Karman could provide any more information about the number of positive cases.

The Cardinal was able to find on Kentucky’s COVID-19 dashboard and resource guide, U of L reported 58 active cases and 12 recovered cases among students as of Sept. 25. The number of active cases this time last week was only at 3. Karman could not confirm if there were more cases or not.

As cases continue to rise, university officials are blaming Labor Day weekend for the recent spike.

“Unfortunately, following the Labor Day holiday, we have seen a slight uptick in cases,” university officials said in an email to students. “Some members of our community are experiencing mild, cold-like symptoms, which can be an early indicator of COVID-19.”

Because of this, U of L has extended its free testing services to students, faculty and staff.

Starting Sept. 28 COVID-19 testing will be available at these locations, Monday through Friday:

  • University Club Ballroom // 8 a.m. to noon and 1-5 p.m. (Open 6-9 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday.)
  • Cardinal Stadium Purple “A” Lot // 8 a.m. to noon and 1-5 p.m.
  • Student Recreation Center // 8 a.m. to Noon and 1-5 p.m.
  • Abell Administration Building (HSC) // 7-11 a.m. and noon to 4 p.m. (Open 6-9 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday.)

The university also seems concerned that another spike may occur after Fall Break.

U of L is “encouraging” students, faculty and staff  to get tested prior to the start of break, which is from Oct. 3-5.

Once the semester resumes though, testing will again be mandatory for all individuals who frequent campus. This round of mandatory testing will end on Oct. 23, however Karman said “testing will remain available through the end of the semester.”

No disciplinary action has come yet to those who did not test during the first mandatory testing period. However, while U of L has opted out of disciplinary action at the moment, officials said in the email they are in the process of identifying those individuals and asking them to get tested.

The university has created a new webform for students, faculty and staff to take to help the university identify who is and isn’t on campus. That form can be completed here.

Graphic by Joseph Garcia // The Louisville Cardinal

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Campus responds to Breonna Taylor charges Wednesday, Sep 23 2020 

By Joseph Garcia — 

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron announced a Jefferson County Grand Jury would charge only one officer, former LMPD detective Brett Hankison, with wanton endangerment in the case of Breonna Taylor’s murder.

University of Louisville President Neeli Bendapudi called the announcement “a reminder that we must recommit to pursuing racial justice and pushing for changes in law enforcement, our legal system, public policy and our educational curricula.”

Taylor was killed March 13 when three LMPD officers entered her home with a “no-knock” warrant. When the police came through the door, Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, fired a one round at police after asking who was there and receiving no response. The officers returned more than two dozen shots. Taylor’s death certificate says she was shot five times, however today, Cameron said she was actually struck six times.

Hankison is the only one of the three officers indicted. He is charged with three counts of first-degree wanton endangerment for firing into neighbor’s apartments, not for the death of Taylor.

A wanton endangerment charge is a class D felony, it comes with a penalty of one to five years.

“While I am pleased that the grand jury has acknowledged the unlawful actions of this police officer and that he will be tried for the unnecessary violence he caused that night,” Bendapudi told students, faculty and staff.  “I am disappointed that our justice system allows these atrocities to occur all too often with relatively little consequence.”

Bendapudi said the attorney general’s announcement does not change the fact that Taylor was killed in her home.

“It does not fix a system that allowed that to happen,” she said, citing a Harvard study which found that Black people are three times more likely on average than white people to be killed during a police interaction.

U of L’s Student Government Association Top 4 said they too are disappointed that Taylor will “not receive the justice she so deserved.”

“For many of our students, waiting for this announcement has been an incredibly emotional time,” SGA said in a statement on social media. “These results will be very difficult to handle, especially for our Black students.”

The university is offering resources for students, faculty and staff to heal during this time.

Faculty and staff may use the Employee Assistance Program to receive counseling services. While U of L’s Counseling Center is offering virtual and personal counseling sessions for students, which SGA said is free to students as part of the $50 insurance fee billed at the start of the year.

“As long as you have not voided this fee on ULink, your visit to the Counseling Center will be covered,” they said.

Some professors have already begun listening to what their student’s are feeling and have canceled their classes.

“I want to respond to the needs of my students,” Siobhan Smith-Jones said after cancelling her 4 o’clock Mass Communications course.

Smith-Jones said she would have continued with class had the students wanted to, pushing down her own feelings of hurt.

“Because I am hurt, I know many of my students are too,” she said. “They are also confused, disappointed and disgusted. They want to protest or protect themselves and their families.”

“I’m here to help, not hinder,” Smith-Jones said.

She also added that the ramifications of this decision will impact Louisville, and therefore U of L, for years to come.

“Our students will have a hand in making the changes needed to our socio-political systems,” she said. “They have a perspective that no one else has; this is their city.”

“So in that,” she said. “Canceling class is a small thing.”

File Photo // The Louisville Cardinal

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U of L still unsure number of active COVID cases, reports 372 total positive Friday, Sep 18 2020 

By Joseph Garcia —

In the latest update by the University of Louisville on Sept. 18, positive COVID-19 cases at the university are now at 372. Of those, 98 are within the athletics department Associate Athletic Director Kenny Klein told the Cardinal. The current positivity rate is at 1.58%, however this has slowly been rising over the past few weeks.

The 7-day rolling average positivity rate has reached the highest it’s been to-date at 3.27%.

This week alone saw a spike in positivity at 2.7% out of 1,558 tests, 42 of which came back positive. This is the first time the rate for one week has been above 2% since the first week of testing.

It should be noted, however, that because the number of administered tests has decreased over the past few weeks, this may potentially skew the rolling average and positivity rate to look as though it is increasing.

When asked if he knew the number of still active cases at U of L, Director of Communications John Karman said he still did not have that information. He also did not have any information pertaining to the number of individuals tested within the campus community’s population.

“The testing data that the university is releasing is all included on the COVID dashboard,” Karman said. “U of L is currently not releasing information about active cases, no. of individual people tested, etc.”

Graphic by Joseph Garcia // The Louisville Cardinal

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Students come to grips with campus life during a pandemic Friday, Sep 18 2020 

By Gabriel Howard —

As the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps the nation, schools have had to come up with new and creative ways to provide a safe and engaging learning environment. And while the inclusion of online courses has been a welcome addition, how have things been for those who still have classes in-person?

Dealing with the pandemic has been a challenge for the university. Moving most classes online has helped ease the stress of delivering classes to the students.

However, roughly 30% of the students enrolled are still having to go to in-person classes during the fall semester.

Diana Romero, a freshman, shared that her experience on campus this fall is much different than when she visited last year.

“When I toured here this time last year the campus seemed vibrant and full of life. I was excited to experience all of the things you would expect in your freshman year,” Romero said. “Things feel different now that classes have finally started. All of the things I wanted to do are simply impossible in the current climate. The campus itself feels quiet and is completely different from what I expected.”

Romero also felt that her experience with in-person classes is much different from what she expected. She commends professors for making it as welcoming as possible, but still feels a little weird going to in-person classes amidst a global pandemic.

The required COVID-19 testing she and her classmates have participated in has eased nerves slightly.

Her experience is something a lot of students can relate to. Most have opted for an entirely online schedule to minimize the risk that coming to campus and potentially being exposed to COVID-19 presents.

In a normal fall semester, campus is usually packed, however, it now feels like it is finals week 24/7. Food lines are small and the classrooms are even smaller. And with the pandemic showing no signs of slowing down, this will unfortunately be our new norm for the foreseeable future.

File Photo // The Louisville Cardinal

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Positive COVID-19 cases at U of L rise above 300 Friday, Sep 11 2020 

By Joseph Garcia — 

The total number of positive COVID-19 cases at the University of Louisville has risen to 315 as of Sept. 11. This is out of 21,097 total tests administered, making the cumulative positivity rate 1.49%.

U of L’s Athletics department makes up 93 of those positive cases according to Associate Athletic Director Kenny Klein.

When asked what number of these positive cases are currently active, U of L Director of Communications John Karman said that he did not have any more information beyond what is posted on the dashboard.

Previously Karman told the Cardinal that U of L had 40 beds available for isolating individuals positive with COVID-19. At this time, Karman said that the university is “not near capacity,” but did not provide a statistic as to what capacity of those beds were filled.

Compared to other universities, U of L is doing well in terms of preventing the spread of the virus.

Phillip Bressoud, executive director of campus health, said in a U of L News release on Sept. 1 that there were many factors that went into U of L’s early success. Including U of L’s contact tracing efforts, limiting of large gatherings on and off campus, and the university community’s adherence to protocols laid out by the university and state.

However, the university’s testing dashboard is bare of information compared to these other universities.

The University of Kentucky’s dashboard includes breakdowns of cases by university population (students/faculty/staff), how many cases are still active and to what capacity their isolation spaces are filled.

When asked if there was a reason U of L wasn’t being as transparent with this information as other universities have, Karman said that “U of L is providing information consistent with the governor’s office.”

File Graphic // The Louisville Cardinal

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University music programs adapt to COVID-19 restrictions Friday, Sep 11 2020 

By Tate Luckey —

Whether it’s halftime at Cardinal Stadium or onstage in Comstock Hall, the level of work and dedication that goes into a performance by any one of the University of Louisville’s arts programs is impressive. What is even more impressive is how these programs have adapted in the face of a global pandemic. 

“Our first change of the semester was kicking off Band Camp with mandatory COVID-19 testing for the full band,” Amy Acklin, director of the Cardinal Marching Band, said. Other changes have included rehearsing outdoors only, performing in groups of 50 people or less and staggering rehearsals. 

Natalie Humble, Head Drum Major, said that since testing has been routine, students have adjusted to the changes well.

“We started our routine of safety right at the beginning of band camp (after we all had the opportunity to do drive thru testing), and it has become very habitual over the last few weeks,Humble said.

But it hasn’t been easy for everyone in the band.

“The purpose of marching band is to entertain, and part of that includes having actual marching band shows. Not being able to do that has been sad,”  Rachel Wilson, a clarinetist/sideline conductor, said.

And while not being able to perform in front of large audiences is disappointing to many of the students in these programs. For instance, the CMB will not be able to do the traditional Cardinal March on the field at any football games. However, the CMB has found a bit of a workaround.

We will perform at each home football game this season. We will play in the stands, including our traditional Pre-Game Show,” Acklin said. “Because of social distancing rules, we can only have 54 people in our band seating area, including students and staff.”

In addition to football games, the CMB will play at various community events. In September, they will perform at 8 Trilogy Healthcare assisted living homes throughout Louisville for residents who have been quarantined for months. They are also collaborating with U of L Health to perform at 5 hospitals in the area, during the “shift change” for doctors and nurses to cheer them on and thank them for serving on the frontlines.

And the band plans on playing virtually too, depending on if the university decides to transition to a fully online program.

“The Cardinal Marching Band is committed to make virtual videos and bring as much Cardinal Cheer as we can to the community!” Acklin said.

Photo Courtesy // The Cardinal Marching Band

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