As SRU campus COVID-19 cases increase, the Student Health Center wants students and faculty to know about local COVID-19 testing locations as well as methods of testing.
COVID-19 testing is available at the Health Center by appointment. There is now a call ahead policy so personnel can sanitize rooms before seeing patients, rather than the walk-in policy from previous semesters.
Kristina Benkeser, director of student health services, said the tests are not as invasive as some may think. The Health Center uses a self-swabbing method where the swab only goes up the nose half way, rather than the swab that goes all the way up the nose.
A student that wants to be tested can pick up a kit from the Health Center. A nurse will watch to make sure the student swabs their nose correctly. If the swab is done incorrectly, the results will be inaccurate, said Benkeser.
The lab that the tests are sent to bills the student’s insurance. Benkeser said almost all insurances pay for COVID-19 tests in full, especially if the student is symptomatic.
The wait time to get COVID-19 test results back varies. People who are symptomatic, live in a nursing home or are healthcare providers go to the top of the list, Benkeser said.
It typically takes two to four days to get results back for a symptomatic person. For an asymptomatic person, it could take three to seven days.
Reasons to get tested
Benkeser said there are many reasons why a student may want to get tested for COVID-19.
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, muscle aches, shortness of breath, cheat heaviness or pain, runny nose, diarrhea, nausea, headache and loss of sense of taste or smell, according to Benkeser. Those who are symptomatic should be tested as soon as possible.
Students may also need to be tested if they are travelling or work in a job that requires a negative COVID-19 status.
If students suspect that they have been exposed to the virus, Benkeser recommends them to be tested, whether they are symptomatic or asymptomatic.
Benkeser added that students should not assume that they do not have to quarantine because their test was negative.
“It can take up to 14 days for you to produce the antibodies if you don’t test positive,” Benkeser said.
Guidelines to remember
Benkeser added that students should wear masks and social distance around everyone, including their friends. She said she understands that this may be weird, but it is a necessary step to slowing the spread of the virus.
Citing SRU’s guidelines on how to wear a face mask or covering, Benkeser wanted to remind students that they should be wearing their masks over their noses as well.
“Where the virus colonizes is inside your nose,” Benkeser said. “You have to cover your nose. You have to.”
Benkeser said students often say masks are uncomfortable and it is more comfortable to wear them under their noses.
“Too bad,” said Benkeser in response to people complaining about masks. “No one likes them, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t wear them.”
In an attempt to slow the spread, Benkeser said students should limit contact with people to those who they live with and keep the rest virtual.
“Put a mask on, and back off, even if you’re just hanging with your roommates,” Benkeser said. “It may seem archaic, but if someone gets sick, that means you only infected three people instead of 300.”
What if I test positive?
Benkeser said the first step is to follow the isolation guidelines, in the case of a positive test result. She also advises students to get in touch with their close contacts and tell them to quarantine as well.
Students should call the Health Center if they received a positive COVID-19 test result. Benkeser said students should not be afraid to ask for help.
“If you are having trouble breathing, if your fever is up and won’t come down, you definitely need to call us,” Benkeser advised students. “We are here to help [people], and that’s what we want to do.”
The Health Center calls students that have tested positive on a daily basis to make sure they are doing well.
“All you have to do is pick up and say ‘I’m dandy,'” Benkeser said. “We do have students that become worse with their symptoms, and it’s the call from the nurse that gets them the help that they need.”
Benkeser also acknowledged that there are some students that test positive from other testing locations and decide not to tell the university.
“If you’re positive, you’re not in trouble,” Benkeser said. “But if you are positive, we would like to know because we make decisions about the campus community based on how many positive cases we know about.”
Benkeser said she suggests that students tell the university their test results if they find out it is positive.
“You don’t have to take services [from the Health Center], however, if your illness, positive status or quarantine is causing you academic or financial difficulties, if we know about that then we can help you,” Benkeser said.
Health reminders and other options
There are sliding windows on either side of the entrance to the Health Center where students can pick up quick things, like a adhesive bandages, antibiotic cream or a cup for a urine test. Benkeser said this is yet another way the Health Center is trying to make things easier for students as well as maintain social distancing guidelines.
As we are headed into flu season, Benkeser said it is especially important to be mindful of health. She added that it is almost clinically impossible to tell the difference between COVID-19 and the flu.
The Health Center will have socially distanced clinics where students and faculty can receive a flu shot. Benkeser said they still need to work out the details on how and when this will happen.
Benkeser emphasized that flu shots are especially important for students living with roommates this semester.
There are COVID-19 testing locations in Butler and Grove City. Some locations require an order for the test, and the Health Center can provide that to students.