Coming into this Winter semester brought many uncertainties for students, faculty and staff. Before arriving on campus, Alma College required COVID-19 saliva kits be ordered, completed and sent in for testing via FedEx on January 12.
Many students found the instructions for ordering the kits clear and concise. Confusion began when students completed their kits. Bailey Allison (‘23) said “Unfortunately, sending back the test was slightly more difficult. We did not have to register the actual kit we had received as it was already registered, but that was not on any of the instructions”. Clarification from the school followed in an email days before the kits needed to be sent back.
Sophia Romain (‘23) found the process for ordering her COVID-19 kit to be clear but did not expect that she would be tested again for COVID-19 the first week back to classes.
On December 8th, 2020, Alma College announced on their website that they had installed eight sampling pumps around north campus. Within the first week back to campus, the pumps detected COVID-19 in Mitchell and Gelston hall, thus causing all in both halls to be tested.
“Testing for Mitchell was pretty easy. I was able to go right after class and have a quick swab done. My results were in by dinner the next day” said Romain. Testing had taken place in the Hogan Center where they used a polymerase chain reaction nasal test.
On January 27th, all south campus residents were tested with PCR tests. Since south campus does not have any of the wastewater collection and testing sites, each student had to be tested individually to ensure that they did not have COVID-19.
Instructor of Environmental Studies, Murray Borrello, describes PCR tests: “Your mucous will have minute amounts of the virus (or not), so what PCR does is take a DNA fragment of a specific thing you’re looking for – Coronavirus DNA for example, and amplify it. Then, if you have a fragment of COVID-19 DNA, it can be identified with a stain or some type of marker”. Assistant Instructor of Biochemistry, Devin Camenares, adds “This makes certain sense, since both your nose and mouth are in contact with your respiratory system.”
Students arriving on campus this semester have tested negative. Knowing this, students like Romain and Allison feel at ease. “It made me feel as though we were getting back to some sort of normality. But, knowing that people have already tested positive does not bode well for us” said Allison.
Romain added that she believes that it would have been more accurate for the school to have tested students upon arrival since four to five days leaves enough time for those who are not quarantining be infected before arrival.
Murray Borrello, said “The more testing, the better. The only way to control the virus on campus is to know as soon as possible who is carrying it and isolate that person away from the general population. It is a method that works – and actually helped us have a pretty successful Fall Term. And, if I know testing is being done on a regular basis, I feel much more confident in the classroom.”
Alma College seems to be responsive to COVID-19 testing in order to have students on campus and in the classroom. Alma College is said to have spent $100,000’s of dollars on COVID-19 testing. It appears that nothing will prevent Alma College from keeping students, faculty and staff safe.