KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Large-scale COVID-19 screening is underway as students return to Western Michigan University's campus for fall semester. The five-day testing event is being held at the Student Recreation Center on Main Campus through Tuesday, Sept. 1 (The event was originally scheduled to end Monday, but it was extended by an additional day due to demand).
"Appointments are spaced out, so there's never much of a line, but we're still getting hundreds of people through," says Joe VanDerBos, interim patient experience director at Sindecuse Health Center. "It's been really smooth. The students are ready to go. They're coming in with their screening badge, they're ready to show it. So, we're really happy."
In the first day alone, more than 300 tests were administered. Appointments generally last about five to 10 minutes, and results are posted in the patient portal in less than an hour. The ability to generate results so quickly is more than a convenience, it's an essential component of the University's ability to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
"That way we can capture those close contacts of that person who's positive and get them quarantining right away to help keep campus as safe and healthy as possible," says Jessica Slates, director of nursing at Sindecuse. The University is covering out-of-pocket costs for one asymptomatic test for each student as well as all tests ordered by a provider at Sindecuse for patients who are exhibiting symptoms or have been in close contact with someone confirmed to have COVID-19.
"It's awesome that I can get this done for free," says Aubrey Chambers, a sophomore from Midland, Michigan. "It was so fast and easy. I haven't been tested—this was my first time—so, it was great to get that taken care of."
Those interested in participating in the testing event should call Sindecuse at (269) 387-3287 to schedule an appointment. Due to the volume of tests and to ensure ample social distancing, walk-ins will not be accepted.
"This is a key part of making sure that we know who's infected, and if they're infected, responding as soon as possible to get them support and to start identifying their contacts," VanDerBos says. "Asymptomatic people can spread COVID-19, so I think the cool thing is all the students who are coming in are doing it out of a sense of generosity to their fellow Broncos."
While the testing swab might be intimidating to some, students like Antony Pena, a freshman from Grand Rapids, Michigan, say it's worth a few seconds of discomfort to ensure the health of everyone around him.
"I know I'm young and it might not affect me as much as it would others, but it's safer for me to get tested," he says.
"It's okay to be nervous," adds Charles Levy, a junior from Portage, Michigan. "It's just that it's not really for you, it's for the other people around you."
Sindecuse Health Center is generally closed on weekends, however in anticipation of an influx of new students on campus, phones will be answered Saturday, Aug. 29, from 8 am. to 4 p.m. and Sunday, Aug. 30, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Students who begin to develop symptoms or who may have concerns about close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 can call to schedule a telehealth visit. If a student needs immediate assistance outside of those hours, they should contact another area health care provider.
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