COVID surveillance testing demonstrates campus safety


Mia C. Vu

Augustana has partnered with Genesis Health to provide surveillance testing for campus communities. Volunteers will be tested every Tuesday at the PepsiCo Recreation Center.
Dave Wrath, sports information director, is working with Genesis Health as surveillance testing coordinator. 
“The purpose of the testing is to give us a broad scope of whether we have lots of COVID cases on campus or whether we don’t have many,” Wrath said. “ It shows if things that we implemented like wearing masks and social distancing on campus are working or not.” 
According to Wrath, an average of 300 tests are done per week. “Through six weeks of testing, our opinion is that [protocols] are working, and the testing reinforces what our administrations have put together,” he said. 
First-year Rayven Repplinger, playing for the Augustana women’s volleyball team, decided to volunteer to participate in the surveillance testing. 
“I wanted to be sure that I wasn’t putting my teammates at risk for contracting COVID. I also have lots of family members that are nurses and work in the ER, so in order for me to be able to see them on a regular basis, I want to make sure that I am safe for them [to interact with] as well.” Repplinger said.
 Wrath said that the surveillance testing team set up a time schedule with different time frames for volunteers to choose from so as to minimize interactions and to advance the process. It is 48 to 72 hours after the testing that people can get their results.
 “They made it super easy,” Repplinger said, “It only took maybe five minutes, if that.”
Many people on campus had volunteered to participate in the surveillance testing to be responsible for the safety of others around them. 
“Most athletes that I know volunteered to get tested because of their sports or because they want to go home and they don’t want to be putting their family at risk.” Ripplinger said.
Senior Kathryn Benshish has been tested weekly as part of the surveillance testing. She has two roommates who also decided to volunteer to get tested.
“We all want to do our part on campus with trying to limit the spread. If at least one of us tested negative, then it is a good indication that we are safe,” Benshish said. 
It is important to note that surveillance testing does not mean everyone must be tested. As said by Wrath, by testing the same people every week, the college can interpret the data and foresee any trend happening among the campus community. 
When a COVID-19 positive test comes out, contact tracers get to work immediately to find people exposed to the virus and request them to start quarantining. Although individuals in quarantine are not required to get tested for COVID-19, the college believes that the incubation period of 14 days should show if someone is symptomatic or not.
“If we put somebody into quarantine, it saves us from having more positive cases, and we take that as a victory.” Wrath said.