After testing positive for COVID-19 at move-in last Friday, Oregon State University freshman Franklin Harding moved back home to Portland.

But since then, he hasn’t heard about contact tracing from Benton County, where OSU is located.


He said the university has called him twice — once on Friday to ask if he’d like to stay on campus, and again on Saturday for contact information. He ended up calling the university to ask for some advice.

“It’s really just kind of a scary experience to get tested positive for COVID and have basically no guidance or response,” Harding said.

He said he is at home, self-quarantining away from his family, but he doesn’t know what happens next, like when he can move in.

Oregon’s goal is for county health departments to reach out to people who test positive for COVID-19 within 24 hours of the result. It’s been five days since Harding’s positive test.

Benton County officials said they have a “rapid communication” cycle with OSU that involves OSU sharing student contact information with a case investigator at Benton County. The county said it meets Oregon’s standard of 24-hour follow up with a person testing positive 95% of the time.

The county would not confirm whether it contacted Harding, citing patient confidentiality laws.


But Benton County said a case like Harding’s is transferred to the individual’s home county health department. Multnomah County would not confirm whether an individual has been reported as having a “reportable disease.” They said they share information directly with the individuals.

Harding said he hasn’t heard from Multnomah County either.

As students have moved to campus, OSU reports testing 2,226 students, with 28 testing positive at its Corvallis campus. There were zero positive tests at OSU-Cascades in Bend. That’s a positivity rate of 1.26%.

That adds to the 53 cumulative cases among students, faculty and staff reported on OSU’s Corvallis campus from July 1 to Sept. 16. OSU-Cascades has reported 0 cases.

Oregon State said it shares a flyer with students about what to do if they test positive, as well as a letter for family members of students who test positive. OSU said they use an electronic signature system for students to certify they receive information regarding testing and their results. Harding recalls seeing the flyer in his move-in packet but said neither he nor his family members received the letter from Benton County.

Harding said he’s concerned for students who may not seek out information from the university like he did.

“My concern with their whole process is how little information students are automatically opted in to,” Harding said. “I had to go seek information.”

Testing students at move-in was just one part of OSU’s strategy. The university’s plan includes prevalence testing on campus during fall term, with up to 1,000 samples collected weekly across its three campuses. Almost all courses on OSU’s main campus will be remote. About half of the classes at OSU-Cascades will be a hybrid of remote and in-person instruction.

Back in Portland, Harding is mostly asymptomatic and planning to attend his remote classes from home. But he’d rather be on campus with his classmates.

“I’m excited for classes to start, but it’s obviously not what I was looking forward to,” he said.

This story has been updated to reflect that Benton County transfers cases of OSU students who return home to a student’s home county. This story has also been updated to include Oregon State’s requirement that students electronically sign a form to ensure they have received information about COVID-19 testing and results.