President Neal Smatresk announced in an official notice that a voluntary second phase of COVID-19 testing protocols will begin next week.
The first phase of the mandatory testing program ran from Aug. 16 to Sept. 20 and had 38,275 participants that included faculty, staff and students. Staff and faculty had a 90 percent participation rate and students had an 81 percent rate.
Vaccination rates among faculty, staff and students are higher than the state and county averages, Smatresk said. Faculty and staff have a 73 percent vaccination rate and students have a 54 percent rate. The U.S. has an overall 56 percent vaccination rate and Texas is below the national average with a 51 percent rate.
The submission numbers came after Smatresk announced on Sept. 8 that the university’s mandatory testing program was extended to Sept. 20 to allow more time for tests and proof of vaccination records to be uploaded. The announcement from Sept. 8 also notes there was a “high percentage” of faculty, staff and students uploaded the required information.
However, on the same day, Senior Vice President for Student Affairs Elizabeth With told the Student Government Association the program was extended due to the low numbers of campus COVID-19 testing and vaccinations cards being uploaded.
The voluntary second COVID-19 testing phase is designed to stay ahead of potential outbreaks as the campus will continue to keep the community safe, according to the announcement.
Every two weeks, a randomized computer program will select 2,000 campus individuals who will be notified of their selection via email. The selection will include vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals.
These campus individuals have two weeks to get tested at either the Student Health and Wellness Center, one of the on-campus Curative locations or another location of their choosing. Individuals who are randomly selected during the second phase will not be eligible for re-selection again for the fall 2021 semester.
If cases began to spike again, campus officials will return to a mandatory testing program.
As of Sept. 28, the university’s COVID-19 dashboard shows 109 active cases, made up of 95 students and 14 university employees. Cases are removed from the dashboard once they have met the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recovery criteria.
“I understand that COVID fatigue is real and challenging for us all, but now is not the time to quit,” Smatresk said in the announcement.
Featured Image: Signage directing students to COVID-19 vaccination appointments stands in front of the Student Health and Wellness Center. Photo by John Anderson