EDITOR’S NOTE: This story was updated March 2 at 7:15 p.m. to reflect that students who have had COVID-19 in the last 90 days should not be tested and that testing is available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 3:45 p.m.
COVID-19 testing for residential students was delayed one week from the original start date after there were delays with the Shippensburg University lab. Testing officially became available to asymptomatic, on-campus residents Monday on the ground level of the University Union.
Kristina Benkeser, director of student health services, said the delays with SU were “multifaceted,” and there was “nothing to do but wait.”
“There are lots of steps and lots of security and things to make sure that we have,” Benkeser said in a Zoom call. “The testing for this spring really is a pilot for what we do in the fall. So, we’re starting off with what I consider a soft launch the week of Feb. 22, which is doing the mandatory residence life testing.”
Jennifer Stoepfel, nurse practitioner and testing coordinator for SRU, said this effort is a huge part of getting more students back on campus in the fall.
“By [the fall] we will be running like a well-oiled machine, for sure,” Stoepfel said in a phone call.
Benkeser estimates this free testing will be offered to about 600 students. The general student body will receive an email on Feb. 24 on how they register for testing.
Benkeser emphasized that this testing in the University Union mass testing center is only for those who are asymptomatic. If students feel ill in any way or are identified as a close contact of someone who has tested positive, they must contact the Student Health Center and be tested there.
Student-athletes will continue to follow their testing schedule as outlined by their athletic trainers.
This testing is only for residential students who are not ill. Eligible students received an email on Feb. 18 about the process and COVID-19 related frequently asked questions.
The email said the biweekly COVID-19 testing is mandatory for all residential students and student-athletes. As for other students, testing is “strongly encouraged but not required.”
Residential students are separated into two groups by their last name. Students with last names beginning with the letters A through K will be tested according to the green schedule. Students with last names beginning with the letters K through Z will be tested according to the white schedule.
The green group will be tested from Feb. 22 through Feb. 25, and the white group will be tested from March 1 through March 4. Testing is only available Monday through Thursday of each week. This schedule will continue alternating till the end of the semester.
Students can schedule a COVID-19 test in the SRU Student Health Portal. Once logged in, choose the “appointments” tab on the left and select “schedule an appointment.” Depending on a student’s last name, they will pick either the green or white testing group and then follow the given steps.
After scheduling the appointment, students will receive a confirmation email with specific guidelines on how to prepare for testing.
Because it is a saliva-based PCR COVID-19 test, students cannot have anything to eat, drink or chew for one hour before their appointment. Brushing teeth, chewing gum, taking any medications, smoking, chewing tobacco, and vaping are also not allowed for one hour prior to testing.
Students will receive a QR code after scheduling their testing appointment, which can be found in the confirmation email and in the Student Health Portal. Students must show this QR code to registration staff after arriving at the testing center to check-in for their appointment.
Students should not be more than five minutes early for their scheduled appointment.
Positive and negative results of testing will be found in the Student Health Portal. Students will receive an email when their results are available.
Students who have been fully vaccinated do not need to participate in this testing. In this case, the email sent to residents recommends students call the mass testing center to remove their names from the testing schedule. Benkeser encourages students to keep their Student Health Portal updated with vaccination information.
Vaccinated students will receive a letter to prove their exemption from COVID-19 screening testing. The student can present this letter to the organization that is requiring them to participate in testing.
Students who have had COVID-19 in the last 90 days should not be tested either. There is more information about this in the FAQs of the COVID-19 SRU webpage.
Those who have had COVID-19 in the last 90 days are directed to send a copy of their positive COVID-19 test to firstname.lastname@example.org or drop a copy off in the mailbox outside the COVID-19 Testing Office in the basement of University Union.
Benkeser hopes that students take advantage of the free testing and anticipates a smooth process other than a few “glitches”.
“The first few weeks are probably going to be a little glitchy,” Benkeser said. “People just need to be patient as we roll it out and recognize that prior to the pandemic, no one has ever done this. We’re all doing our best and figuring it out. But I do think from the student viewpoint, it’s gonna seem very smooth.”
The university will continue to update the campus COVID-19 case numbers on the SRU webpage.