GuideSafe program implements sentinel testing

GuideSafe program implements sentinel testing

Ellen McDonald, News Editor

Before the start of classes for the fall semester, all returning students of the University of North Alabama were required to be tested for COVID-19 through the GuideSafe program.

Through GuideSafe, students were able to be tested quickly, receive their results in a timely manner and did not have to worry about sending their results to UNA. GuideSafe, powered by the University of Alabama in Birmingham, automatically sent the test results of any student who tested through their program to UNA. 

As classes continue and the pandemic presses on, the University is finding ways to ensure the health and safety of all those coming onto campus.

One way the University is making sure that their students, faculty and staff are safe is through the implementation of sentinel testing. 

On Sept. 3, UNA Student Affairs sent out an email telling students that they may receive an email from [email protected] asking them to schedule an appointment for COVID-19 sentinel testing. Some students however, had already received such an email before Sept. 3.

“Sentinel testing is a random sampling of all asymptomatic faculty, staff and students to identify the underlying prevalence of infection on campus,” said UNA Student Affairs in the email. “This will allow us to respond promptly to any outbreaks or increases of infection rates.”

Through this, UNA hopes to lower potential COVID-19 cases, as well as lower the number of students asked to quarantine due to potential exposure. 

“All institutions in the state that participated in the entry testing program for GuideSafe are also doing the follow up Sentinel Testing to continue to monitor and mitigate the potential for virus spread,” said Tammy Jacques, the Vice President for Student Affairs.

The active cases are being reported on a weekly basis through contact tracing and the data that Guidesafe provides the University with. The University is also relying on individuals within the UNA community to self-report positive cases. As long as students and employees do their part and report data, the University will include those along with what GuideSafe provides. 

“It is important that every member of the campus community accept personal responsibility to complete the daily HealthCheck and contact Health Services to report any symptoms, exposure, or positive test results,” said Jacques. 

The University cannot fight this disease alone. It needs the help and continuous responsibility of its students and employees.

Through sentinel testing, approximately 200 students will be tested on a weekly basis. This is three percent of UNA’s campus. Students will be randomly selected for sentinel testing through the GuideSafe program and if selected, must be tested. 

If a student has been tested for COVID-19 within two weeks prior to being selected for sentinel testing, they are still required to be tested through GuideSafe. The only exception to this is if the student has symptoms of COVID-19 or they have tested positive for the virus within three months prior.

While a large portion of UNA’s students have yet to have been selected for sentinel testing, some students have already been tested. 

“It was Wednesday of last week when I got my test, but I got my email a week before that,” said UNA sophomore, Alexis McAdory. 

GuideSafe decided when the sentinel testing would occur on UNA’s campus, the University was not in charge of this. Guidesafe has designated Wednesdays to be UNA’s testing day. Students are able to choose a time that works best for their schedule based on their time availability provided to the University.

“If you get there [the email] early, you can choose from a good variety of times, but if you are last minute, there’s only so many since everyone has already chosen theirs,” said McAdory.

Located on the second floor of the Guillot University Center in room 209, across from the elevators. The testing center is easy to locate and convenient for students living in the Shoals area or on campus.

 If a student is selected for sentinel testing and wishes to get the best time for their schedule, timeliness is imperative.

“Thankfully we don’t have to do the original testing where they stick it all the way up [the nose],” said McAdory. “You do it yourself in both nostrils for 10 seconds on each side. It [the test] felt uncomfortable but it didn’t hurt.” 

Much like the tests that students underwent through GuideSafe before returning to campus, the sentinel test is one that is self-administered. The Q-tip is simply removed from it’s package, snapped in half, administered into the individual’s nostrils and then placed within a test tube. 

“…it was super quick. It was maybe 2 minutes, if that,” said sophomore, Carson Weigart. 

This test is not the invasive nasal swab that must be administered by a nurse. Since the test itself only takes around 20 seconds and GuideSafe alert has the information for all of UNA’s students, the whole process is quick and efficient.

“The next morning, I woke up and had my test results,” said UNA Freshman, Max Shirley.

Students who are tested through the GuideSafe sentinel testing system receive their results quickly and mostly within a day. This safeguards the potential spread of the disease if a student might have it.

While putting one’s life on hold to undergo a COVID-19 test might be irritating for some, it is a small sacrifice to make to ensure that UNA is able to finish out the fall semester in-person. It is the small things that will help us get through this pandemic.