UNA continues to provide COVID testing


Kennedy Dezso, Volunteer Writer

In the days leading up to the start of the spring semester, the Division of Student Affairs sent an email to students and faculty members regarding the continuation of Sentinel COVID Testing on campus. 

The UNA CARES Act provides the funding for sentinel testing as well as relief funds for students with significant financial needs as a result of the disruption of campus operations due to COVID-19.  UNA is one of 21 universities in the state that are participating in campus-wide sentinel testing.

“It’s [sentinel testing] not required, but institutions were elected to participate and we definitely wanted to participate,” said Tammy Jacques, the Vice President of Student Affairs. “The sentinel testing program and GuideSafe are hinged on the CARES Act fund that came from the state, so Governor Ivey is the one that designated funding for all these institutions to participate.”

According to the email sent by the Division of Affairs, the campus community will be broken into three categories of population: students (non-residential), residents and clinical nursing students, fraternity/sorority students and employees. 

Students are placed in these groups based on an estimated level of contact risk with each group rotating every 3 weeks for a testing opportunity. For students crossing multiple categories, like on-campus residents that are a part of greek life or non-residential clinical nursing students, will be assigned to the group that projects a higher risk. 

The testing is completely at random with the testing pool being selected from students and faculty that have created an account through Verily. 

“We sent out an email to campus and the community encouraging people,” Jacques said. “If they have not created the [Verily] account they aren’t going to get the invitation so we want them to create an account.”

Jacques said they have been trying to push everyone throughout the semester to create an account.

 “Here’s how you do it and here’s the link,” Jacques said. “In this last email we actually attached instructions step by step instructions in the link to sign up for it.”

Sentinel testing procedures for this spring semester were altered so as to promote more testing among the campus community.  

“I got selected six times to test and then I had some colleagues and employees who hadn’t been selected at all and wanted to be tested,” Jacques said. “In order to try to increase our testing numbers to get more population tested and to give people the opportunity, we decided to allow whoever wants to get tested in populations to do it at 100% so we’re giving invitation to everyone and then whoever wants to test can test.”

Jacques said they are trying to encourage people to test right now so they decided to regroup.

UNA performs sentinel testing on Wednesdays and Thursdays in the Guillot Center (GUC). Students and faculty that are selected for testing are notified by email to schedule an appointment through the Verily app. The test involves a nasal swab just inside the nostril, that is easy to self-administer and less invasive than the nasopharyngeal swab. 

Those who are tested are not required to quarantine following their test as long as they are not showing symptoms related to COVID-19 and will be notified via email of their results.  

“This information is reported weekly,” said Sheena Burgreen, director of Health Services, regarding the number of sentinel COVID-19 tests performed.

Burgreen said the number of sentinel positives/number of sentinel tests performed is located on the COVID-19 dashboard located on the UNA website. 

 “Participation in the sentinel testing program is strongly encouraged,” Burgreen said. “One third of campus now has the opportunity to sign up for a test each week.” 

As of Feb.12, a total of 195 positive COVID-19 cases have been reported through entry and sentinel testing, and self-reported tests from private providers, beginning January 6, 2021. With a total of  645 positive cases since August of 2020. 

GuideSafe recommends not testing through the sentinel testing services if you have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 12 weeks. 

If students are currently experiencing symptoms or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, Jacques recommends scheduling a diagnostic test through University Health Services rather than the sentinel testing services.

To schedule an appointment, go to the University Health Services website and follow the provided prompts. Those who test positive should self-isolate at home and have medical clearance from University Health Services prior to returning to UNA.