SPU conducts residential and athletic COVID-19 testing

As students return to campus for the winter quarter, SPU conducts COVID-19 testing for students in residential halls and on sport teams

Carlos Snellenberg-Fraser, Staff Writer

Students returned to on-campus housing for winter quarter on Jan. 4. As part of the new procedures implemented by SPU, students living in residential halls and apartments are required to undergo mandatory COVID-19 testing. 

An email from the Office of Student Life was sent out to student residents outlining the process for testing and explaining that due to contact tracing needs, students would be separated into scheduled testing times based off their residence hall or apartment. 

Mollie Brown, third-year resident in Emerson, described the process in which she was tested for COVID-19.

We lined up by the Dravus parking lot and waited under tarps in between receiving the test. The test itself took only a few seconds before we were sent to wait until the test results were ready, at which point we received the results and were sent on our way,” Brown said. 

When asked about how the testing process went and what her thoughts were, Brown stated that she believed the testing would lessen student’s anxiety as they returned to campus.

“I think the test can also offer some relief from anxiety for students who are worried about having COVID-19 and being asymptomatic, so the whole process gets two thumbs up from me,” Brown said.

Claire Neder, fourth-year student and athlete on the SPU women’s soccer team, described the testing process for student athletes, as they are required to be tested for COVID-19 prior to practice. 

We were given a time slot on a certain day to come and get tested. At (our) time, we went to the gym where multiple tables are set up. You go to the table according to your last name and get in line (everyone is spaced 6 feet apart),” Neder said. 

Neder explained that after she was checked in, they began the testing process. 

“We sanitize our hands, and are given a swab kit. After swabbing in each nostril for about 15 seconds, we break off the top of the stick, close the tube and give it back to the monitor. Then, we sanitized our hands again and exited through the back door,”  Neder described. 

According to Neder, the soccer team will undergo random testing to ensure they remain safe as they begin in-person practices.

“We have random testing every couple of weeks within our team because if anyone on our team tests positive, we all have to quarantine for two weeks. This is to limit the spread of COVID-19 and to keep each other and those around us safe,” Neder explained. 

Danielle Burger, first-year student and resident in Emerson, described the process of testing as being “fast and efficient”. Burger stated that she believes there could be some potential gaps in the current testing strategy.

“The entire test went well. My only concern is that only students living on campus were tested. Personally, for me, I am a student employee and learning that my coworkers did not have to be tested shocked me,” Burger said. 

Burger’s statement comes after SPU conducted mandatory testing for residents on campus. Commuter students and on-campus staff are not required to undergo the same-day testing. 

Jeff Jordan, the Vice Provost for Student Formation and Community Engagement, explained that there have been approximately 750 residential students and 90 student athletes tested so far. 

When asked about the tests being administered, Jordan said the university is using the BinaxNow rapid tests for the COVID-19 testing and as of Monday, the testing process has identified six positive COVID-19 cases. According to Jordan, SPU has a current on-campus positivity rate of less than 1%.

Jordan said that the testing on-campus was primarily focused on the congregate living situations at SPU, per CDC guidelines.

“Our main focus is what is called congregate housing. … we (SPU) do not have a bubble environment,” Jordan said in reference to the difficulty of managing the risks of exposure on campus.

Jordan praised the efforts made by both students, who have taken these efforts seriously,  and the staff, who were responsible for administering, confirming and submitting the results to the Washington State Department of Health.

“They are really taking the whole COVID-19 issue, not just on campus, but beyond our campus seriously. They are taking care of themselves and they are taking care of other people,” Jordan said.

In response to being asked about what students should know moving forward, Jordan outlined a variety of things students should be aware of and do, along with an announcement that SPU will conduct voluntary surveillance testing on small groups of students in resident halls in the coming weeks.

“First and foremost, if anyone is symptomatic, please contact Health Services as quickly as possible. … Second thing is continue to follow all of the health and safety protocols. The third thing about testing is we are going to try to roll out surveillance testing that will be voluntary,” said Jordan.

If students have any questions about COVID-19 information, protocols and safety, refer to the health and safety protocols on the student health center website.