Testing once. Testing twice. Testing every other week? That’s what Lyon College in Batesville is doing this semester as it makes a return to in-person classes and students living and working on campus during the pandemic.
When the private college’s roughly 900 students, faculty and staff first arrive on campus, they will take a PCR test and be quarantined until their results come back, Provost Melissa Taverner told Arkansas Business this week. She said the test results typically take 36-40 hours, and the school’s food service personnel will deliver meals to students in the dorms during their initial quarantine.
Individuals with positive test results will be isolated for 10-14 days, then tested again.
When individuals test negative for the virus, they will be released from quarantine.
“It, for us, is a sort of baseline. It's our attempt to create or to start with … as virus-free an environment as we possibly can start with, knowing full well that people come on and off campus and that we have faculty and staff who live in the community and they go to the grocery store, as do our kids,” Taverner said.
After their intake tests, students, faculty and staff will be assigned to either Group A or Group B. People in those groups will take a rapid test on alternating weeks throughout the semester.
“So the idea is that the surveillance test will allow us to have an opportunity to catch someone who inadvertently has been exposed to and has become infected with COVID, so that's kind of our strategy. It seems to have worked pretty well at other small schools,” she said.
Lyon is expecting to receive an estimated $1.07 million in installments from the federal Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund to cover testing costs.
“Obviously, this does not take away the social responsibility for following the rest of our protocols which is we require masks,” Taverner added. “People on campus need to be wearing a mask.”
Classroom and dining hall capacity has been reduced as well to slow the spread of the virus.
But “it's the testing that's going to allow us to sort of do real-time monitoring of our community, so that if there's a problem we can sort of nip it in the bud as quickly as possible,” she said. “With any type of testing, if you get a positive result, we're going to immediately kick into contact tracing ... We want to make sure that anybody that they've come into contact with is aware of that and then they immediately go into testing as well.”
In addition, there will be penalties for students who do not follow protocols, an anonymous tip line for reporting violations and student health ambassadors.
These student health ambassadors, Taverner said, aren’t students charged with reporting violations. They’re tasked, instead, with encouraging everyone to remember what the protocols are and that following them is what’s best for everyone.
The first violation constitutes a warning. The next could lead to community service hours, and on up to the student’s removal from campus.