New rounds of COVID-19 testing for students, faculty, staff and contract workers began on Monday, Sept. 14 and continued into Thursday, Sept. 17. The testing was conducted on the Dunning Memorial Chapel lawn and was held each day from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Testing was split between students alphabetically according to last name. It was conducted in the same way it was when students moved onto campus: polymerase chain reaction via a nasal swab. The testing was completely free to students and mandatory to attend.
Similar to the first round of testing, students would not be informed if they tested negative. They would only be informed if they tested positive for COVID-19. Students who are attending Alma solely online and are not student athletes were not required to be tested.
This new round of testing was not a surprise to most students at Alma; though necessary, it was not necessarily welcomed with open arms. “The first time we did it, I had my mom to hold onto,” said Mishaye Hearn (‘24). “[The test] became so painful to the point where I was physically taking his wrist off me.” When asked how she felt about this new round of testing, Hearn honestly said, “I’m terrified!”
Kara Sutherland (‘24) shared some of the same fears. “[I’m] nervous,” said Sutherland.
She also shared how she felt these tests were necessary. “[It’s] necessary to make sure that the measures that have been taken to protect the students are accurate and proven effective,” said Sutherland. “I am ready and capable to be tested again.”
Hearn also shared that, despite her fears, she felt this new round of testing was extremely important. “It’s a 50/50 thing,” said Hearn. “I know it’s necessary, so I’m okay with it.”
The testing followed an email from President Jeff Abernathy on Friday, Sept. 11, that stated there was recently an increase in likely cases. The email said that while ‘unfortunate’, this uptick in cases was ‘not entirely unexpected’ after the Labor Day weekend.
As of Sept. 17, there were 17 positive cases on campus. As a result of the recent uptick in cases, all non-classroom activities were limited to no more than 25 people. President Abernathy stated in the email that once all the campus-wide testing results were received, this restriction will be reviewed.
At the end of his email update, President Abernathy stressed the importance of social distancing, wearing face coverings, washing hands, completing the daily health screening form and staying home if you are feeling sick.
“It’s up to those of us who are not in isolation or quarantine to stay focused and serious about COVID-19, so as to not overwhelm our campus resources and the local healthcare system,” said the email.
With rising cases in schools all over Michigan, this campus-wide testing will provide a clearer picture of what further steps Alma needs to take in order to ensure the safety of students, staff and community.
“I think that if we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing and what we’re told to do, we should be able to get back to some sort of normalcy,” said Sutherland.