At the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay (UWGB), the fall semester has continued in a relatively safe manner only because of the very rigorous new procedures put in place. When looking into UWGB’s numbers within its bubble of the campus’s community, the first place to look is within the campus’s testing facility, which can be broken down into three specific areas.
The Staff and Student safety protocols
The first line of defense at UWGB’s testing facility is the staff and students’ safety protocols and guidelines. There are basic yet essential safety standards while you’re in either building. Amy Henniges, the director of counseling and student support and the office of COVID at UWGB, stated, “It’s all a very organized process. They have rigorous standards; they follow social distancing; they wear personal protective equipment, and it’s all handled very confidential. They’re taking every precaution possible.”
Another example, as stated by Amber Allen, executive director of primary care, quality and innovation at Prevea Health, “After a staff member collects a specimen from one student, they must remove their gloves, perform hand hygiene and don a new pair of gloves before collecting a specimen from the next student.”
The second defense is testing. This is a two-step process, an antigen test done at the Turf Gym within the Kress Events Center, which is mostly done for surveillance purposes to monitor the health, and a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test done at the Wellness Center, which is a molecular test that provides much more specific results. Doing this already separates those with more severe symptoms from those just going in for the basic antigen test. “Right now, anybody who lives in housing is required to have (the antigen) test done once a week, and then after Thanksgiving, there is a possibility that it may increase,” said Henniges. Anyone who has a positive antigen test must go to the Wellness Center for a PCR test. The PCR test is taking roughly three to five days to get those results. The antigen test is also available to all students, not just those living on campus.
UWGB’s positive test results have remained relatively low, with only 1.14 percent of confirmed positive tests out of total numbers, according to the UWGB COVID-19 Dashboard on November 24, 2020. Henniges credits this to its early testing strategy and the requirement of the antigen test. It is also important to note that a college community is precisely that, a community. Students on campus will inevitably venture out into the extending community, either for work or leisure. To increase screening and prevent an unnecessary spread, the community has extended its reach by utilizing University property and offering COVID-19 tests at the Weidner Center via appointment to the extending Green Bay community. According to Allen, “This is led by the state health department and the UW-system.”
Isolation and Quarantine
The third line of defense is isolation and quarantine. This step also occurs on two different occasions, while awaiting PCR test results and 14 days after a positive PCR test result. If a positive PCR test has been received, there is no testing out of quarantine early. Henniges admits that this may be the toughest challenge they face and that they must keep educating people, “People falsely feel that if I get a negative test during that time that I don’t have to stay separated, I don’t have to keep monitoring myself. So, there’s a misunderstanding on that part. They think they can get out of quarantine by testing negative when you have to wait the 14 days.” The same is encouraged if a student has been in direct contact with someone who has tested positive, get tested, and isolate for 14 days.
The University’s testing process as a whole gives Henniges reassurance, “Although the University has seen a slight increase as of late with positive tests, we’re catching more people early with positive antigen testing in that surveillance process. We are trying to be as proactive as early as we can.” However, the upcoming weeks and months raise a cause for concern, “I worry that we could see a higher incidence when they return because they’re going to be leaving the bubble of our campus community. If everybody lightens up on their precautions over the fall break for Thanksgiving and are being more liberal on the precautions that they are taking, we could see a rise in numbers when the semester resumes,” Henniges continued.
Why is it important?
It boils down to cooperation at some point, and at this level, it’s the cooperation of the students. According to Amber Allen, that has been what has exceeded her expectations and is correlating to the University’s results, “Everyone is navigating this together, and although we are all navigating it from slightly different perspectives, there has been an openness in doing this together to keep students on campus and to keep everyone as safe, and healthy as possible.” At the national level, it’s the cooperation of every citizen, which will help curb this pandemic. Henniges, who is also a nurse by training, gave this insight when asked how she is handling the emotions and stress of everything going on, “It’s a very challenging time, and I do believe that the precautions we take and the masks that we wear, and the social distancing makes a huge difference, and it breaks my heart when people don’t comply with this or don’t take it seriously. It feels like at some level that this is quite preventable when following the guidelines that we know are helping.”
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