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USD encourages COVID-19 tests before break

With only two days left until the campus is vacated and students return home for spring break, the university is preparing for the COVID-19 repercussions that could be seen after the Coyotes reconvene after the break.

USD is continually stressing the importance of getting tested and is offering students “Know Before You Go” PCR testing from March 1-5 in the Muenster University Center and residence halls. 

This saliva testing opportunity combined with the rapid antigen tests that the university is encouraging students to take prior to returning to campus are being paid for in full by the state Department of Health. 

“With the combination of the PCR test before students leave and then encouraging the rapid antigen test before they return, we believe that we will have done everything in our power to protect the pack,” Assistant Vice President of Research Compliance Kevin O’Kelley said. 

Throughout the spring semester USD has seen an exponential drop in COVID-19 cases among students and faculty. In the fall, USD experienced 243 self-reported positive cases at its peak. However, during the spring semester, the number of cases has never exceeded 23. 

The case count is at four as of March 3, with two student cases and two employee cases. 

“There are many fewer sick students this semester compared to last,” O’Kelley said. “This is because of two things: one, a lot of people got sick in the fall and people who were sick in the fall didn’t get sick in the springtime. Two, people who are sick in the fall can’t spread the disease from person A to person C. They’re in the middle and they’re immune so they’re not spreading COVID-19.”

This overall decrease in on-campus positive COVID-19 diagnoses and the increase in testing awareness allowed USD to relax some of its fall semester safety precautions.

During the spring, the Wellness Center was able to be reopened, basketball and volleyball games were able to have a limited crowd in attendance, and the football team is preparing to have a crowd at their games as well. 

While USD isn’t advising students to avoid travel during their time off, they have advised students to continue taking safety precautions while with family and friends over their break.

“Students are capable of learning,” O’Kelley said. “They know by now to keep six feet apart, to wear a mask and to avoid chaotic situations. We are not the COVID police. We’re not going to tell people not to do things, we just advise them to be cautious, and overall, we just trust our students.”

While taking all necessary precautions while home for break is important, the university is still urging students to get tested. While it’s voluntary, the testing is also free and only takes a few seconds, so it is the least students can do to protect the pack, O’Kelley said.