By Paige Lilly, Contributing Writer
As the new semester begins, UMF has opened the doors of a new COVID-19 testing center intended for the testing of commuter students, faculty, and staff.
Residential students will continue to be tested in Dearborn Gymnasium, while others will be tested at the new center located at 274 Front St. The new testing center will continue to help with social distancing while testing, along with minimizing interactions between residential and commuter students. “You can only do so much [to minimize student interactions] in terms of classes, but I definitely think it’s going to make a huge difference in terms of people’s safety,” said Jessica Howe, the COVID-19 Testing Coordinator.
Howe believes that with the large volume of students being tested this semester, the new testing center will keep crowds down and allow for better social distancing than Dearborn Gymnasium would alone. “With too many people, you can’t social distance or make a proper line in [Dearborn Lobby],” Howe said.
During the fall semester, students, faculty, and staff were randomly selected to get tested in each phase of testing. However, according to an email sent out by Christine Wilson on behalf of the Asymptomatic Testing Team, all students, faculty, and staff who “live on campus, take or teach classes on campus, work on campus, or participate in student athletics” are required to be tested every week this semester in Phase 6 of UMF’s asymptomatic COVID-19 testing.
Getting the word out about that has been another challenge Howe and her team have been facing, but signage and frequent emails have been a factor in overcoming this challenge. “We’re encouraging people to set a time to be their designated testing time every week,” Howe said. “We want people to put it on their calendars and then go through and sign up with us.” This is not required, but Howe believes that it is a great way for people to remember to get tested every week.
Elena Guarino, a sophomore, is one of the students who has tested at the new testing center. “It was interesting because I had never been to that site on campus before so it was a little tricky trying to figure out where to go,” said Guarino. “There is only one entrance [into the parking lot of the building], which I didn’t realize, so I ended up missing it the first time I drove by.”
Troy Johnson, a junior, said he appreciated being able to see the same style of posters that would usually hang on the student center walls in the testing center. “I lived on campus for two years, so being in the student center was a daily occurrence for me,” Johnson said. “Now, I live off campus and because of [COVID-19], I don’t really go [to the student center] much.”
Howe is also excited about the potential that the testing center has for communication with commuter students. “I’ve been trying to hang posters up similar to what would be seen in the student center in order to connect with students in that way.” Her main goal is to keep students, faculty, and staff both safe and engaged in their testing experiences.