Student Health Services Urges COVID-19 Testing
Texas A&M University students who have symptoms of COVID-19 or have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for the illness are asked to visit the A.P. Beutel Health Center for testing and treatment.
Dr. Tiffany Skaggs, chief medical officer for Student Health Services, said self-collected nasal swabs now allowed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are comparable to the provider-administered tests, but are less painful. Skaggs hopes this and the coverage of testing costs through insurance or funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act help Student Health Services test a large amount of people ahead of the fall semester.
Roughly 75 people per day are tested at the clinic, but Skaggs said an average of 200 per day is needed for Student Health Services to fine-tune its processes and be prepared for the fall.
“In order to protect our students, we need to find clusters and hot spots of the disease,” Skaggs said. “Then we can quarantine, test, contact trace and care for those effected, while minimizing transmission to the community. Testing large numbers allows us to actually understand the virus’ movement.”
Skaggs said Student Health Services will aim to test about 500 students per day in the fall in order to reach the CDC’s recommended positivity rate of 4 percent, which she said is an indication that enough tests are being administered. Depending on the day, the clinic’s test positivity rate currently ranges between 12 and 49 percent.
“So we know we’re not testing enough,” Skaggs said. “We’re trying to test as many people as possible. If they have symptoms, if they’ve had close contact [with someone who has COVID-19], they should come in and get tested.”
Students can book an appointment at a time convenient to them, and have the option of speaking to a provider about symptoms like coughing, shortness of breath, fever or chest pain. They can also opt to be tested only, using the self-administered nasal swabs. A staff member observes the tests, and results are typically available within 24 to 48 hours.
“To me, it’s selfless service to come in, find out if you’re infected, and quarantine for that short amount of time and protect others,” Skaggs said.
COVID-19 hospitalizations have more than doubled in Texas in the last two weeks, and passed 8,000 statewide for the first time over the weekend. There have been roughly 209,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the state, and at least 2,706 had died as of Monday.