By John Church
The fourth week of the Spring semester at SUNY Plattsburgh is in full swing, and so is COVID-19 testing. Just last Wednesday, 987 students were tested for COVID. However, things have changed since last semester and students can expect COVID testing to be a bit different for the spring semester.
Similar to fall 2020, SUNY Plattsburgh will be conducting COVID-19 testing throughout the entire semester. This time around testing will be held each week rather than biweekly. Testing is mandatory for all faculty, staff and students who will be on campus.
“We believe the test is very safe,” says Cathleen Eldridge, director of Environmental Health and Safety at SUNY Plattsburgh. “There have been very few problems with testing students and there is almost no wait at all to get the test. The process is much smoother and much more effective this semester.” Students can register for a test on SUNY Plattsburgh’s website by accessing the “COVID-19 Campus Updates” tab. From there by clicking the “COVID-19 TESTING FOR STUDENTS & STAFF” side tab, students will be able to register for a test.
Students will then be asked to create an account, enter their banner ID number and provide health insurance information. Students and faculty will need to remember their information to log into their SUNY COVID-19 testing account prior to being tested. From there, students are required to complete a series of screening questions.
Weekly testing will be held at Algonquin Dining Hall Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Students and campus employees are asked to schedule a day and time that they will be attending the pool testing. Once this is completed, students will receive a digital ticket that will grant them admission into Algonquin Dining Hall. Students are required to be tested each week at their scheduled time for the rest of the semester.
Before attending the screening test, students are required to follow a set of instructions to ensure that test results are as accurate as possible. Students and faculty are asked to not brush their teeth or use mouthwash three hours prior to the test. They are also instructed to not eat, drink, smoke, vape or use any smokeless tobacco products 30 minutes prior to testing.
Students who fail to follow these instructions will either have to wait longer for their test, or they won’t be able to take their test and will have to come back at another time.
Upon arrival at Algonquin Hall, students need to have their phone, student ID, banner ID number and their COVID-19 test account information on hand. Students should have their digital tickets open on their phones as well. From there students will be asked to answer a series of health screening questions.
So what exactly can students expect this semester? Is the test faster, is it more effective? And most importantly, is the test safe? Generally, the testing process itself is quick, easy and painless. Lines are short, testing is quick, and most are safe.
“The only problems we’ve really encountered are tech problems,” Eldridge said. “Students tend to forget their personal devices sometimes, so we have chromebooks at the testing site so that students can sign into their accounts. But other than that we’ve had no problems.”
Only a handful of students are let in at a time to be tested. Algonquin has eight testing tables scattered throughout the dining hall. Students are required to wear a mask and socially distance themselves when inside.
Students are then sent to a designated testing table. At the tables, students are instructed by two attendants. They are asked to put their phone or device away, sanitize their hands and open the test kit provided to them. From there, the two attendants will give further guidance on how to administer the test.
“I would say I feel pretty safe,” freshman Sam Carter said, “The testing process itself is pretty straightforward. There’s really not much of a wait for the test either. Everything is well set up, and socially distanced. I think it’s a pretty good system.”
“Screen testing may be inconvenient,” Carter said, “but it’s a necessity and it keeps people safe.”
Freshman Nicholas Helmer said testing is sometimes inconvenient because he lives off campus. “It’s handy and it’s better than nothing. If I had COVID, I’d want to know.”
Students are encouraged to make every effort to attend their scheduled time slot. If students cannot make the day and time they scheduled, they must attend an alternate date and time for the same week.
“COVID-19 testing is not an option for students and staff,” Eldridge said. “It’s a requirement, and there will be consequences for those who do not show up for tests. You will not be able to attend classes and you will not be allowed on campus. The vaccines are still relatively new, and vaccinated individuals will continue to get tested weekly. So it shouldn’t be an excuse to not be tested.”
Students are still required to comply with social distancing restrictions and failure to do so will result in disciplinary action. Students must wear masks, refrain from participating in prohibited gatherings and avoid crowded places when possible.
“Right now parties are the main reason we have positive cases on campus,” Eldridge said. “If you are partying, we will catch you.”