Thanks to mandatory testing and thorough planning, Lynchburg was off to a strong start when spring semester classes began last week. Zero positive COVID-19 cases among students climbed to just five after a full week on campus, with six cases among faculty and staff. A total of 26 students are in quarantine as of Monday.
President Dr. Alison Morrison-Shetlar praised the students’ diligence in her weekly update on Friday afternoon and encouraged the campus community to continue doing all the things they’ve been doing since last March — wearing a mask, washing their hands, and practicing social distancing. She also asked everyone to avoid travel.
In addition, faculty and staff can now get tested on campus during the health center’s weekly clinics. Spots are available by appointment only and for individuals without symptoms.
The weekly PCR testing is done in coordination with the local health department. To date, the health center has performed 188 tests, with a positivity rate of 2%, says Lisa Geier, clinical director of the health center and a member of the COVID-19 Task Force.
“We are confident in our testing capability for this semester,” Geier said. “We currently offer students rapid antigen and PCR testing through the health center, as well as the weekly randomized PCR tests through the health department. Students are encouraged to contact the health center if they need or want a test.”
Testing was mandatory for undergraduate residential students before they returned to campus after the extended winter break. COVID-19 Task Force member and Vice President for Communications and Marketing Mike Jones reported that 92% submitted a negative test result. Those who were unable to obtain a test got one as soon as they arrived on campus.
“We’re really proud of our students for doing everything they can to keep each other safe,” Jones said. “Their diligence goes a long way in making all of our planning work, and the mandatory testing contributed greatly to a safe start this spring.”
For the next few weeks, students will be randomly tested for COVID to keep tabs on the virus’s spread on campus. The first random tests were administered last week and, of the 97 students tested, only one was found to be positive.
In athletics, those protocols are already in full swing. Since the end of December, 1,300 tests have been administered.
“The fall semester taught us a lot about processes and protocols for athletics participation,” said Director of Athletics Jon Waters, who also sits on the COVID-19 Task Force. “The additional tool of testing basically gives us a report card about how well we are doing. We know that we will have some ups and downs, but our programs are excited about the opportunity to represent Lynchburg in competition.”
With testing protocols in place, the task force is monitoring the latest coronavirus strains and working with state health officials to bring vaccines to campus. The University has been approved to become a vaccination site — just when exactly isn’t yet clear.