Students living at Texas A&M University-San Antonio will receive monthly COVID-19 tests. Provided by the A&M System, 700 tests per month will be administered without cost to Esperanza Hall dorm residents.
Located in portable 101B behind the Central Academic Building and open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday – Friday, the administering of tests is overseen by STAAMP Allergy, a local service provider, while Curative Inc., a Los Angeles national testing company, provides confidential results.
According to Dr. Mari Fuentes-Martin, vice president of Student Success and Engagement, with over 100 dorm residents tested, the decision to require monthly tests was made the final week of August starting the 26th after the number of COVID-19 tests provided to the university was verified the second week of school.
The university wasn’t sure of how severe COVID-19 was going to be or how many tests they were being provided when school opened up. Fuentes-Martin said because of this uncertainty, wellness stations were set up to take the temperatures of new residents moving in.
“The reason we’re very interested in that population is that they spend 24/7 together, unlike a classroom,” Fuentes-Martin said. “…You’re just in such close proximity to each other for a very extended amount of time, so we wanted to be extraordinarily careful.”
Though there have been zero positive cases among dorm residents, the university already has accommodations in place for Esperanza Hall residents who test positive.
Positive residents will be moved to an isolated apartment and asked to quarantine in place, while those potentially exposed to them are tested and quarantined for at least 48 hours.
Fuentes-Martin says A&M-San Antonio’s main goal is to provide the safest environment possible through preventative measures. To develop these measures, A&M-San Antonio partnered with American Campus Communities, the operators of Esperanza Hall, to find the best way to approach the situation.
“We looked at their safety protocols, we looked at their signage, and we were able to blend a lot of those things and expectations that we had for safety with what they also had,” Fuentes-Martin said.
Education freshman Paige Borenheim started living in the dorms at the beginning of the fall 2020 semester and is witnessing the effects of COVID-19 on Esperanza Hall firsthand. Masks are needed on short trips outside rooms and visitors aren’t allowed; doorknobs and handrails are cleaned systematically and elevators have limited capacity.
While Borenheim has a roommate, she says most dorm residents don’t because many potential residents canceled their plans to move in.
“I know a lot of people who have no one to hang out with or they’re kind of just actually isolated with no one,” Borenheim said.
Along with these changes comes the monthly COVID-19 testing requirement.
“I have mixed feelings on it because obviously it takes a lot out of your day to go get tested,” Borenheim said. “I got tested a week ago, and they sent us an email the day before we had to get tested like, ‘by the way, you have to get tested every month.’ So there was a long line of 30-plus people in the hot sun for an hour plus.”
Borenheim says she now has conflicting feelings about how the process is currently being handled.
“I do like it,” Borenheim said. ”I know they’re trying to make sure no one’s contracting the virus or anything but at the same time it’s kind of like, I wish there was a better way to go on with it.”
Fuentes-Martin said she wants students to know that A&M–San Antonio is adapting and that the university has services to help deal with COVID-19 which can be found at https://www.tamusa.edu/community-safety-together/index.html
“If you need a laptop, or if you need Wi-Fi…The library’s open, advising is open, you know, so we’re here to help students,” Fuentes-Martin said. “We don’t want you all to think that we’re invisibly not here. We are here.”
This story was updated at 5:49 p.m. Sept. 11 to correct “Stamp” to “STAAMP Allergy” and to explain that Curative Inc. provides confidential results.