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Some Mid-Michigan colleges move to weekly COVID testing

Alma College, for one, will fall in line with a new state recommendation
Published: Jan. 22, 2021 at 10:21 PM EST
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ALMA, Mich. (WJRT) (1/22/2021)--Michigan health officials recommended this week that every college student be tested on a weekly basis.

It’s part of the push to ensure returning college students don’t bring anything more than luggage back to campus. ABC12 crunched the data for a number of local schools and reached out to determine which among them would comply.

“Right now, we’re testing campus-wide every two to three weeks,” Alan Gatlin related.

Students returning to face to face learning at Alma College this week will find a brand new policy on the books: a weekly swab test for coronavirus.

“We’re going to get 95-percent or more of our students tested,” Gatlin said.

More than 1400 undergrads attend the private Gratiot County college.

Gatlin, the college’s vice president and COO, told ABC12 via Zoom Friday a new batch of rapid test kits delivered Thursday, used in conjunction with traditional PCRs would address looming questions of turnaround time and reliability with earlier versions.

“I think most of the small colleges across Michigan are employing a strategy similar to ours,” Gatlin related.

The extra effort came days after state health officials issued a recommendation colleges and universities begin testing students on a weekly basis.

An outbreak linked to an East Lansing bar near Michigan State University sickened 180 last fall. In Washtenaw County, meanwhile, an October outbreak linked to large gatherings near U of M’s campus forced the health department to issue a two week stay-at-home order.

“Our students have been quite responsible. Our numbers of COVID cases remained relatively low.”

That was SVSU Spokesman J.J. Boehm. In partnership with a lab service, staff will test 25-percent of the university’s residential population on a weekly basis, with students selected at random. Testing will also be offered to any student interested in having one administered.

“If we see something in our data... that would suggest that we need to do even more testing, we’re prepared to do so,” Boehm said.

Gatlin said Alma has also begun sampling the college’s wastewater for warning signs, a strategy, it would seem, that immediately paid off.

“We did wastewater sampling on Monday,” Gatlin revealed. “We found that we had positivity coming out of one residence hall… we found two students that did test positive for COVID. We now have them in isolation.”

An effort Gatlin hopes will keep their doors open and in-person classes viable.

Midland-based Northwood University told ABC12 that while its athletes receive tests six days a week, it isn’t currently testing asymptomatic students, a fact the University attributed largely to cost.

Delta College didn’t respond to ABC12′s requests for comment.

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