Faculty, staff, and students at Florida A&M University last week were put on a mandatory biweekly COVID-19 testing schedule provided by the Student Health Services. The coronavirus has claimed over 425,000 lives nationwide since its start while cases continue to be on the rise in Leon County.
In early January, students and staff received an email that presented the Spring COVID-19 “Testing Four Points” information for the semester. The graphic included four points which explain the steps that should be taken before the time individuals arrive on campus, to what will happen during the duration of the Spring testing.
The mandatory biweekly testing has not always been in place. Students living on campus were not required to get tested but have been obligated to wear masks at all times unless in the comfort of their own room and have not been granted visitation at residence halls in efforts to limit the spread of the virus.
After close review and tracking of the status of the pandemic, it was recommended that the university take a different approach.
Prior to the mandatory bi-weekly campus testing, resident assistants were required but not limited to being tested every two weeks since the start of their training in August.
Caleb Mclean, a senior resident assistant in Polkinghorne Village, said he thinks the requirement for all students and employees to get tested constantly is a good thing.
“Now some students will do a better job of staying safe. I feel like this is beneficial to employees such as myself who have to interact with these students daily,” said Mclean.
FAMU’s reopening plan, which can be found on the university’s website, gives an up-to-date insight on what COVID-19 testing and cases look like on campus. Within the last seven days, there have been a total of 1,482 on-campus tests administered, with 1,172 being from students and 310 from employees. Also, within the past seven days, there were a total of 70 positive cases with 63 being from students and seven coming from employees. This puts the university at 3.9% positivity rate.
Bobbie Pettaway, a freshman pre-nursing student, has gotten tested twice using FAMU’s rapid testing site since the start of the new semester. Pettaway said that the mandatory testing is not an inconvenience, but necessary. “Last semester I was getting tested very often, but now that it’s enforced it feels like now everyone else around me is getting tested, so it feels a bit safer.”
The testing capacity at the Bragg Memorial testing site has increased. “It’s really amazing when you think about it in context,” said FAMU President Larry Robinson, who has been tested four times since the start of January and recently received the first dose of the vaccine. “We have exceeded over 220,000 tests administered at the site, and at one point when we started this in April of last year, it was going to be perceived by some to be a short-lived couple of weeks, 2,500 tests. We’re doing that many tests per day.”
The COVID-19 test results are monitored when students and employees upload their test results on the FAMU mobile app.
“We’re in this together we’ll get through it together. We need everybody to take this seriously. This is not a time to be rebellious,” s Robinson said. “Over 400,00 people in this country have died and I bet by now, everybody knows somebody who either has been fatally impacted by it or seriously ill.”
President Robinson says that FAMU leaders, along with himself, are trying to do everything they can to keep the university alive and well so that students are able to progress successfully. President Robinson also says that he is very pleased with the students of FAMU.
“When I walk the campus, go to the café, you know, I see students adhering to the plan and to the precautions. If I had to do a guess, well over 90% of the students are wearing masks when I see them.”
He said that this is the kind of compliance and responsible behavior that he has seen on the backs of FAMU students and would like to see this sort of empathy all of the time, regardless of where students are.