WU to introduce surveillance testing; will not offer vaccines for foreseeable future
Bishop Wellness Center will “begin [surveillance testing] of undergraduate, law, and graduate students in February,” Director of Bishop Wellness Center and Reopening Committee (ROC) member Don Thomson said over email. Bishop will use the rapid antigen tests for its surveillance testing, so test participants will receive their results the day of. There will be no direct costs for students requested to participate in the surveillance testing, and the appointments will be available 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., Monday to Friday.
Thomson said that he is hopeful the new surveillance testing will help identify potential for community spread. “The results will not only help us understand the factors that facilitate transmission among students, but may help us locate geographic patterns of COVID-19 on campus,” Thomson said. “Although we identified positive COVID cases on and off campus in the fall, they were not connected to one another. We will continue to monitor for community transmission in the spring.”
Bishop will also offer tests to asymptomatic students for a “$50 fee as supplies are available.”
Thomson said that anyone experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or those that had close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 should call Bishop and make a separate appointment, rather than participate in the surveillance testing.
Willamette will not be offering vaccines anytime soon, Thomson said, because the nationwide roll-out of the vaccine has been slower than promised. The federal government had previously indicated that it would be distributing a federal reserve of vaccines to the states, but Oregon Governor Kate Brown said [that the federal government lied: there is no reserve]. As a result, the vaccine distribution timeline Gov. Brown and the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) previously shared has been pushed back. “It will continue to take time for the vaccines to be widely available and meet the demand of the groups eligible for vaccinating. Currently, OHA is still in [Phase 1a] of the vaccine roll out,” Thomson said.
In a December interview, President Thorsett said Willamette’s plan for vaccine distribution depends on how quickly it rolls out. “18-22 year olds will be really low on the priority list. Any real changes will probably come pretty late in the semester,” Thorsett said.
When asked if Bishop would offer vaccines, Thorsett said: “We don’t know how it’ll be distributed yet, so no idea. There’s some questions about which vaccine will actually be distributed. It might be offered only through Salem Health if it’s the vaccine that needs to be held at low temperatures.”
Willamette will not require the vaccine before it becomes widely available, so that vaccines aren’t diverted from a low need area to a high need area. “We don’t want to encourage low risk people to get vaccinated when high risk people need it more and there’s still no wide availability of the vaccine,” Thorsett said. “That doesn’t mean that we’re not thinking about employees, who have family that are high risk. We’ll find a way to get employees and people at Bishop vaccinated.” Willamette will also consider the efficacy of the vaccine before making it mandatory.