By Abby Weingarten
The first round of onsite COVID-19 testing at New College—in preparation for the reopening of campus this fall—was a well-attended event last week.
A total of 149 faculty and staff members participated in the drive-through clinic, which Lab Services hosted outside of Sainer Pavilion from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wed. July 22 and Thurs. 23. Oropharyngeal (throat) swabs were administered, and employees received their test results via email within 24 to 48 hours.
“I heard from many faculty and staff members that they were very appreciative of how they could get their tests done right on campus and get their results back faster than they could elsewhere,” said Loretta Shields, assistant vice president of Human Resources at New College, who is the testing point of contact for all employees. “If everything goes well, we’ll continue to work with Lab Services because they’re reliable and don’t have that lag time of up to 10 days like some other testing companies do.”
Shields said that New College has a total of about 350 employees (though that number fluctuates during the academic year when adjunct professors and student workers arrive). All employees will be tested for COVID-19, including those working completely off campus, to enable New College to establish a baseline against which to measure and trace future infections. Additional on-campus testing clinics will be scheduled for August.
“New College is doing everything we can to provide a safe-as-possible return to campus. We encourage people to be very diligent because that’s one way we can mitigate the spread of the virus,” Shields said. “We can stabilize it, at least, in our circle by having people be proactive and practice preventive measures. Anyone who tests positive, we will work with them individually and do some contact tracing with them, and make them aware of any benefits available to them.”
Employees are provided with four hours of leave for testing, and those who retest can receive an additional four hours. Lab Services has created a website link (https://labservices.us/new-college) to allow participants to schedule appointments, upload copies of driver’s licenses and insurance cards, and receive emails.
Jeff Thomas, the director of campus space scheduling at New College, was pleased with the onsite testing experience.
“It was very stress-free with great professionalism and extremely friendly healthcare providers,” Thomas said. “They were super efficient and the process, from start to finish, took less than 10 minutes.”
Anne Fisher, Ph.D., the director of New College’s Counseling & Wellness Center, is currently working alongside Shields to equip the campus community with other health tools. Shields is compiling a dynamic form for employees that acts as a symptom self-checker. The University of South Florida (USF) has its own symptom checker, which New College will be introducing to its students next month. Students will be asked to set up an account, and the checker will be akin to a cell phone app.
“We’re going to have everyone do a self-evaluation every morning before they come to campus. The symptom checker will ask them if they’re feeling well. If yes, they can come on in. If not, it will run the COVID-19 symptoms. Those people who have symptoms will have to stay home until they get medically checked out,” Fisher said. “This is just another way we can try to keep our campus and community healthy.”
Faculty and staff can direct any testing questions to Loretta Shields, assistant vice president of Human Resources, at 941-487-4417 or firstname.lastname@example.org
For information on student health services, call 941-487-4254 or email email@example.com
For information regarding New College’s campus policies and procedures related to COVID-19, email COVIDfirstname.lastname@example.org
Abby Weingarten is the editor/writer in the Office of Communications & Marketing.