Mountaineers take a new type of test to get on campus

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Caroline McNair

Alicia Toomey teaches her American Sign Language I class in Holmes Convocation Center. AppHealthCare says that it’s too soon to see a COVID-19 related pattern among the university community with students back on campus.

Hollie Moore, Reporter

It’s been almost two weeks since students moved into their dorms with suitcases and negative COVID-19 tests in hand. With in-person classes in session as well, AppHealthCare says it’s too soon to see a pattern among the university community.

Students living in residence halls were originally scheduled to return to their dorms between Jan. 15 and Jan. 18. University Housing moved the return to Jan. 28 and Jan. 31 due to an increase in the number of  COVID-19 cases across the state.

Students were directed late in the fall semester to choose a return to campus in the spring or opt out of their housing contracts, staying home with a parent or guardian. 

“I thought it would be harder at home without the resources they provide here and I felt like I didn’t meet anyone so I wanted to put myself out there,” said Shelby Chandler, a freshman. 

Associate Vice Chancellor and Chief Communications Officer Megan Hayes said that “students who did not wish to live in residence halls were provided with opportunities to re-work their schedules for all online classes”

The return process for students residing on campus requires an appointment time to move into their rooms, a negative COVID-19 test and the student’s consent to periodic testing throughout the semester.

 “Ten percent of the on-campus student population will be selected at random for periodic testing,” Hayes wrote in an email.

Throughout the previous fall semester, off-campus students averaged 69% of the positive COVID-19 cases among App State students, according to campus-wide emails sent throughout the semester.  

Senior Jillian Briggs lives off campus at University Highlands. 

“Being in this environment versus just home with my parents makes it seem like this last semester was not totally taken away,” said Briggs. 

Briggs isn’t required to get a COVID-19 test before returning, but she doesn’t have any in-person classes.

“I think it depends on if you are going to be taking any on-campus classes,” said Briggs. “For me, I have all virtual classes all semester long, so I’m rarely leaving my living space or coming in contact with others.”

In an email, Chancellor Sheri Everts said that 24% of classes this semester are in person and 76% online or hybrid.

“I don’t think a negative COVID test result being required to return back to town is too much to ask … they have been around different households over break and are going to be entering into the Boone community,” Briggs said. “We would want to limit the spread from outside areas as much as possible with pre-return testing required.”

AppHealthCare will be watching the COVID-19 cases to predict a rise or fall over the next part of the spring semester.

 “We are still early into the spring semester and there really hasn’t been enough time to see any significant trends yet,” said Melissa Bracey, AppHealthCare Director of Communication and Compliance. 

Students are still reminded by AppHealthCare to wear a face mask, wash hands or use hand sanitizer, wait six feet from others and get the COVID-19 vaccine when available.

“We have been working closely with App State since the beginning of this pandemic and will continue doing so to protect the health of our community,” Bracey said. “We appreciate their partnership in this response effort.”