By, Josh Grewal, Assistant Social Media Editor
A new protocol for mandatory surveillance COVID-19 testing in the current spring 2022 semester was announced in an email sent by One Manhattan on Feb. 10, which has resulted in some confusion amongst the community.
The newly implemented protocol seems to be more of a prevention precaution and data survey. The information allocated from the testing will likely shape how precautions should be taken in the following weeks.
“We are conducting surveillance testing in order to better identify trends in positive cases on campus as the Omicron variant still spreads, albeit in a diminished capacity. Testing results will also provide us with more data as we evaluate any changes in guidance from city, state and federal health officials,” the One Manhattan team wrote in the email.
Director of media relations and strategic communications, Pete McHugh, spoke to The Quadrangle again regarding the new situations regarding surveillance testing, emphasizing the need for surveillance testing in the first place on campus.
“We are conducting surveillance testing in order to better identify trends in positive cases on campus as the Omicron variant still spreads, albeit in a diminished capacity. Surveillance testing results will also provide us with more data as we evaluate any potential changes in guidance from city, state and federal health officials,” said McHugh.
He also went into detail about precautions or plans in place for a result where the majority of students test positive.
“We will make the necessary adjustments to protocols if we see an increase in positive cases,” said McHugh. “There is a significant level of vaccination and recent natural immunity among our student body, in addition to a low level of infection rate in the surrounding community, so those factors give us confidence that we will not see a large amount of positive cases.”
Faculty members will also be required to follow similar instructions for surveillance testing.
“Surveillance testing is a tool, I think it’s legitimate,” said adjunct professor of English, Alastair Murdoch. “I think it’s valid and I certainly understand the spirit and I think it’s more than compliance. I think it was born out of a desire to be doing everything possible to ensure safety on campus.”
Alastair hopes surveillance testing will increase health and safety by mitigating the risks inside and outside of the classroom.
“It helps us to understand where the risks are and to see where we’re moving and I think it’s something we can do. It’s not a big deal. And if we can do that, and it makes some meaningful difference to the health and safety of everyone on campus, then do it,” Murdoch said.
Anne Mavor, director of health services, believes it is a priority to address some concerns or questions that students might have about the newly implemented testing situation.
“We hope to see more negative results,” Mavor wrote in an email to the Quadrangle. “The infection rate was close to 25 percent over winter. The rate is much lower now. We expect to see this fall and our efforts in surveillance testing will directly help this by isolating people quickly. Fall semester we had 56 cases before December and Omicron arrived.”
In the case of the majority of students testing positive, she went into detail about what could happen in the future weeks.
“The college activated one of the strategies the week before classes started. The One Manhattan co-chairs made a decision to offer the first five days of classes remotely as our infection rates were high. This allowed students and employees time to complete their isolation and not miss their classes. The return to campus testing identified people who were actively positive and some who were infected over break and did not have access to testing in the surge,” wrote Mavor.
There were also many questions surrounding the exemption policy. Mavor states there are accomodations in place for the people that are in need of them.
“There are people who are exempt from surveillance. Anyone who has tested positive in the last 90 days is exempt from testing. There are others that are required to test more often. People with a vaccination exemption are required to test every seven days to maintain the green pass and access campus,” Mavor wrote.
Many students seemed worried about the time frame in which people had to get tested.
“The One Manhattan team meets regularly to assess the campus pulse,” wrote Mavor. “We want to be able to adjust as the case counts and rates lessen. We rely on the community answering the Daily Symptom Tracker. We ask that anyone with symptoms or exposure report this risk and test before their surveillance is due. We will all be happy to be on campus with less policies and restrictions. As our community booster rate is higher, we expect to have less disruption in learning. NY state requires the booster dose for individuals to be exempt from quarantine after a close contact exposure.”
As time moves on in the coming weeks, we are likely to see more information unfold regarding the current situation surrounding the surveillance testing.