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One of four COVID-19 testing PODs sits on campus near the Nicholson Gateway, Friday, August 21, 2020, on LSU's campus in Baton Rouge, La. The testing centers will allow for a rapid testing for students, faculty and staff exclusively.

While confirmed cases of the coronavirus at LSU have slowly risen, they have not soared as fast as some other universities, like Southeastern Conference counterparts Alabama and Georgia.

As of Friday afternoon, LSU has reported 673 confirmed cases since students returned to campus on Aug. 15. The university has nearly 40,000 students, faculty and staff.

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Georgia, which has closer to 50,000 total students, faculty and staff has reported 3,045 positive cases. Alabama, which has about 45,000 students, faculty and staff with 2,240 positive cases. 

If cases were to start soaring to those levels, how would LSU know?

The school's primary tool for tracking the virus is its TIGER Check Daily Symptom Checker. TIGER stands for: TRACK symptoms, ISOLATE, GET tested, EXERCISE caution and REPORT positive cases.

Students, faculty and staff are all being asked to fill out the checker — via email or text message — every day, whether they come to campus or not. The data gathered informs LSU's COVID-19 dashboard, which reports the number of cases on campus three times a week.

LSU leaders have said the university can't enforce its way out of the pandemic. They says they're relying on students, staff and faculty to cooperate to keep cases under control.

"Whether you live on campus or off campus or out of town, we ask everyone to fill that out," LSU spokesman Ernie Ballard said in a recent press briefing, conducted digitally. "We need to have the best data possible so we can track things and make the best plans as we move forward."

However, some students worry that not everyone is participating in the tracker or taking time to get tested, which might mean LSU is under-counting the number of people on campus who have the virus.

"If it’s all self reporting, that’s not really a good way to be getting accurate numbers," said Chris Clarke, a senior computer science major. "Whether people just don’t want to self-report or just don’t fill out the survey or whatever, there doesn’t seem to be anybody sort of watching that."

If the entire plan is to put trust in the hands of more than 25,000 18- to 22-year-olds, it won’t work for long, Clarke said.

Osman Torres, a business administration and interdisciplinary major senior, has multiple in-person classes and fills out the checklist almost every day. He brings his own wipes and hand sanitizer to campus.

But he doesn't think everybody is taking the virus as seriously as he is.

"I know many are concerned," Torres said. "But I am seeing enough people that aren't concerned that it leads me to believe that by the end of the semester we will have to move online because people aren't listening."

It's not just the tracker Torres is worried about. He said some professors are not even making students keep masks on throughout class.

"I had one professor take images of where we were seated before releasing us because he said the university required him to keep a record of it." Torres said. "Then the next day, I had another class where he simply dismissed us, and I asked if it mattered where we sat and he said no."

Some students, however, say they're impressed with LSU's efforts to stop the virus. Several spoke highly of the school's rapid testing system.

Alexandra Cox, a sports administration senior, was tested for COVID-19 at one of LSU’s on-campus testing sites near the LSU Foundation Building after going out of town a few weekends ago.

“I had to do a virtual video call with a doctor in order to explain what was going on and why I was getting tested,” Cox explained. “I was so pleasantly surprised by how helpful and knowledgeable my doctor was. After my video call, I headed to campus to get tested. I got tested and left within five minutes."

Cox said she got her results — negative — three days later. 

“It was an extremely fast and easy experience that I would recommend to anyone who has an inkling that they might have COVID,” she said.


Contact Kennedi Landry at klandry@theadvocate.com.