Commuter testing not required
Donovan Wilson – Reporter
As COVID-19 numbers begin to rise once again, Southern remains one of the only major colleges in the state that still does not test its commuters.
The University has been testing students randomly each week for COVID-19. Other college campuses that have on-ground students have also been conducting randomize testing of students. While most of those colleges test a certain amount of the entire population of their school, Southern has been testing mainly residential students. There has not been any testing targeted towards commuters as a general group.
“Our screening testing has been of the residential population of the campus, testing about 25 percent a week,” said Dr. Jules Tetreault, the Associate Vice President of Student Affairs and the Dean of Students.
There are separate population subsets of the overall campus population that are being tested besides the general residential population, just not those who are commuting. All nurses and athletes engaging in practices are scheduled for tests. Faculty and staff and coaches have also been getting tested by the school.
Residential students have been the main focus. The university feels they provide the biggest threat towards creating a spread. All of those students live amongst each other in a communal setting, making it harder to strictly follow preventative guidelines. Which can lead to a spread if not carefully monitored. It is also felt by the school that they have been adhering to state guidelines.
According to the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities higher education subcommittees’ update on COVID-19 testing on campuses; “Given these criteria, it has been determined that residential students and residence hall directors are subject to testing. No other faculty, staff or commuter students are required to be tested.”
According to guidelines set by the state, Southern has been entirely compliant whilst also not doing the bare minimum. The decision to test commuters is left up to the indiviual instituitons. They do not deem it something to worry about on campus here.
“At this given point it’s hard for me to say if I will change our plan going forward. There is no blueprint,” said Tetreault.
COVID-19 is an ever-changing situation in this country. Numbers could be at an all-time low in a week and then at an all-time high in a month; therefore, it is hard to determine what could happen to the campuse’s testing guidelines. They could become stricter in event of an increase or looser in event of a downtick.
Tetrault has determined that Southern has had a very successful semester in terms of COVID-19 numbers. As of this point in the semester, with the results that have been yielded, he does not think now is a time to change gears on the current plan. However, he also says he has no way of predicting what the case will be next semester.
“When we get notice of a positive case, we find out who they’ve been in contact with,” said Emily Rosenthal, head of the university’s COVID-19 contact tracing team.
While the campus does not have mandatory testing for commuters, they do find out where a commuter has been if they report a case. However, there are protocols within the classrooms like mandatory masking, disinfecting of stations and social distancing that are designed to stop the spread of an unmonitored commuter case.
With so many guidelines already in place, Tetreault said there is nothing for the campus to worry about in regards to the current testing procedure.
Photo credit: Jessica Guerrucci