COVID-19

Free Texas A&M T-Shirts Being Given To Students Participating In Current Random Testing Program

The new self-collected saliva test takes less than five minutes and is critical to keeping in-person classes and activities.
By Texas A&M University Division of Marketing & Communications November 3, 2020

Texas A&M University recently launched its sixth round of student-testing to assess infections of the virus that causes COVID-19, a measure that officials say is critical to keeping campus open.

The A&M administration is asking students to check their university email account and look for the subject line “COVID-19 Testing Program. You’ve been selected.”

Students need to respond to the email within 48 hours by following a provided link to schedule their test. Results for each round of the Random Testing Program can be found on A&M’s COVID-19 dashboard, along with data gathered through voluntary testing and reporting programs among students, staff and faculty.

The most recent results show a 1 percent positivity rate, according to officials with A&M’s School of Public Health, which is overseeing the program.

The process itself takes five minutes or less and involves self-collecting a small amount of saliva once in the testing room at the Rec Center, 187 Corrington Drive. Free parking is available for those with a Texas A&M parking permit, plus free spots are reserved at the South entrance for students without a permit to use while testing.

Students who already have been tested for the virus, have had COVID-19 or are not attending in-person classes still need to respond to the email, since all students are important to helping understand who is affected by COVID-19 and who is not. Only students living in the Bryan-College Station area are eligible for this particular testing program. T-shirts will be given to those who complete the RTP.

Tracking the virus locally in this manner is critical to understanding what works to keep the campus community safe, identifying possible hotspots where transmission might occur, and rapidly responding to any infections or other warning signs.

The selfless service aspect of participating in the Random Testing Program has real meaning for Aggie life on campus, according to Rebecca Fischer, an epidemiologist with the School of Public Health. She said students participating in prior rounds helped demonstrate that COVID-19 is not more common for students attending in-person classes.

“They also provided important information to help officials learn how to safely keep football fans in the stadium on game days,” she said a few days after A&M hosted its third home game of the season with more than 27,000 attendees — far less than the capacity crowds that Kyle Field had grown accustomed to.

President Michael K. Young said one of the major reasons A&M has been able to remain open this fall is because of this testing program.

“Early on it was our students’ participation rate that helped us measure the rates of COVID-19, and keep our community safe and healthy,” Young said. “As infection rates rise around the state, we need the help of more students who understand that getting tested truly is the highest form of selfless service.”

Key To Staying Open

So far, studies from across the globe show that many young people between 18 and 22 years old who have the virus, often don’t have symptoms or have mild symptoms, resembling allergies. A person who doesn’t realize they’re sick can transmit the virus to others, who then can become ill.

All those who test positive are notified of their results, and given information, guidance and resources on seeking medical care, isolation and next steps.

Shawn Gibbs, dean of A&M’s School of Public Health, said the program — which was designed in collaboration with a team from Johns Hopkins University — remains a key part to maintaining a safe campus environment.

“It is important that students open the email and complete the screening questionnaire each time they are invited and if asked to do a COVID test,” Gibbs said. “It is likely students will be asked to participate several times each semester, but this allows us to continue to offer in-person courses and other student experiences.”

Free Testing

Free testing also is available for any student, faculty member or staffer at the following campus sites:

  • Student Health Services, 311 Houston St., where appointments are encouraged and can be made online.

Or one of three outdoor walk-up locations:

  • Aggie Express Commons, 676 Lubbock St.
  • Mays Business School, 210 Olsen Blvd.
  • Memorial Student Center, 275 Joe Routt Blvd.

Like the random testing program, these also involve self-administered saliaa swabs.

For updates and guidance on COVID-19-related matters, please follow the Texas A&M COVID-19 information page.

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