KALAMAZOO, Mich.—As Western Michigan University welcomes students back to campus for spring semester, a mass COVID-19 testing event aims to mitigate the spread of the virus.
"It's a chance to start afresh and make sure everybody's on the same page with safety and awareness," says Joe VanDerBos, interim patient experience director at Sindecuse Health Center, emphasizing the testing is a "snapshot in time" and it's important to remain vigilant regardless of test results.
Current students, faculty and staff can sign up for drive-thru testing through Sindecuse Health Center's online patient portal. Testing will be available by appointment only on Friday, Jan. 15, and Tuesday through Thursday, Jan. 19 to 21, from 8:15 a.m. to noon each day. Hundreds of people participated in a testing event before winter break, so Sindecuse is asking everyone to be patient when arriving at their scheduled testing time.
COVID-19 testing is available at no out-of-pocket cost for WMU community members who exhibit symptoms of the virus or have been in close contact with someone who tested positive. The University is also increasing the number of no-cost tests available to asymptomatic students, faculty and staff from two to four in total for the 2020-21 academic year.
"Young people can be asymptomatic and carry the disease without knowing it. This is a great way to give everybody another chance to check themselves, even if they're feeling fine," VanDerBos says.
Sindecuse Health Center uses rapid-result antigen testing, typically offering results by the end of the day through the patient portal. Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 will receive a call from Sindecuse staff members informing them of the result.
COVID-19 Vaccination UpDate
Vaccines are being administered to eligible populations through Kalamazoo County Health and Community Services (KCHCS), which is operating with a phased approach determined by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS). WMU is working in partnership with KCHCS to identify individuals who may meet criteria for the first phases of inoculations. According to MDHHS, phase 1A includes "paid and unpaid persons serving in health care settings who have the potential for direct or indirect exposure to patients or infectious materials and are unable to work from home, as well as residents from long-term care facilities." The state defines phase 1B as "persons 65 years of age or older and front line workers in critical infrastructure."
Regardless of vaccination status, WMU continues to urge Broncos to follow safety measures such as wearing a mask, washing hands often, staying at least 6 feet away from others and avoiding large gatherings.
"We've done a great job so far in keeping positive test results fairly low, and that's because students are following safety recommendations," VanDerBos says. The goal is to continue that trend until vaccines are widely available and administered.
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