The first students administered their COVID-19 tests in Mitten Hall and the Howard Gittis Student Center Monday as part of Temple University’s new COVID-19 testing program.
Temple is projected to spend almost $10 million this semester on the COVID-19 testing program, said Mark Denys, the director of Student Health Services.
To offer in-person classes during the COVID-19 pandemic, Student Health Services will test 4,000 students twice per week and 1,200 students once per week, but those numbers will fluctuate, Denys said.
Students will receive their COVID-19 test results between 12 and 36 hours after the test, The Temple News reported.
“You swab your nose, you put it in the little test tube and then return it,” said Emma Lazar, a junior mechanical engineering major who was tested on Monday morning at the Student Center. “They have a scan barcode on the tube that goes with your TUID, so that they don’t get mixed up.”
After inserting the nasal swab into their noses, students must break off the tip of the swab and put it in the test tube.
Temple built a lab at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine that can process 26,000 COVID-19 tests per week, Denys said.
“We can do a lot, and we may not even be at our full capacity,” Denys said. “This is something brand new. We built a lab that’s never existed before.”
In preparation to supply students, faculty and staff with as many as 20,000 nasal swab tests this week, Student Health Services assigned students to one of five COVID-19 testing groups.
Student Health Services will give mandatory tests twice per week to the first group, which includes students who reside in on-campus housing, take in-person classes that meet at least twice per week or live in the six ZIP codes surrounding Temple and take in-person classes that meet at least once per week, Denys said.
“The twice per week mandatory testing starts changing behaviors,” Denys said. “Nobody wants to test positive and students started changing their behaviors and following the guidelines to keep themselves safe in a more consistent manner.”
Student Health Services will give mandatory tests once per week to the second group, students taking in-person classes at least once per week living outside of the six surrounding ZIP codes, and optional tests once per week to the third group, students living in one of the six ZIP codes with no in-person classes, Denys said.
The fourth group, students assigned to clinical rotations, will get tested through their respective schools. Student Health Services will not test the fifth group, students using only online resources, unless they are symptomatic or identified as a close contact, Denys said.
Student Health Services will test student workers who work on campus at least twice per week twice a week and student workers who work on campus less than twice per week, once per week, Denys wrote in an email to students.
Student Health Services will track students’ testing frequency through their TUID.
If students are not getting tested enough, Student Health Services will send them a warning, Denys said.
Sarah Feldman, a junior business major who got tested on Monday morning at the Student Center, was nervous about the test before it happened, she said.
“I really like that you’re at your own table separate from everybody else, so there’s no pressure from the people around you,” Feldman said. “It was a lot easier than I had expected.”
The City of Philadelphia approved Temple’s testing plan on Friday, wrote James Garrow, a spokesperson for the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, in an email to The Temple News.
Asymptomatic COVID-19 testing for students will be conducted at the Great Court in Mitten Hall and the Student Center South Room 200ABC, while symptomatic COVID-19 tests will be conducted at the Morgan Hall testing center, The Temple News reported.
Paley Hall will serve as a testing site for university employees, The Temple News reported.
Menes Allain, a sophomore construction engineering and technology major who was tested on Monday morning at the Student Center, feels safer this semester with Temple’s new testing plan in place, he said.
“They had a little bit more time to, kind of, get everything under control and formulate a plan to keep students safe,” he added.
Students can schedule appointments for COVID-19 tests online through the Student Health Services Patient Health Portal. Appointments for tests will open on Friday for the following week throughout the semester, The Temple News reported.
“There is no mandatory quarantine period for students waiting for results, but everyone should be pretty close to quarantining all the time, following the four public health pillars,” Denys said.
If students test negative, they will receive their test results via email or text message. If students test positive for COVID-19, Student Health Services will call them and inform them of how to proceed, The Temple News reported.
Amelia Winger contributed reporting.