By Leighah Beausoleil, Sophia Harris
Framingham State University will be conducting random sample testing of vaccinated students and employees starting Nov. 2, according to an Oct. 25 email from President F. Javier Cevallos.
Those selected for random testing will be notified by email, according to Cevallos.
Testing takes place in the Athletic Center gym every Tuesday from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Those not selected for random testing are welcome to test during the designated times, according to Cevallos.
Each week’s testing will include resident and commuter students as well as employees, with a 100 sample size for each group, according to Ann McDonald, chief of sta8 and general counsel.
Cevallos explained though random sample testing was discussed as a possibility previously, the main focus at the start of the semester was getting everyone compliant with the vaccine mandate.
According to FSU’s COVID-19 data dashboard, students are 98.1% compliant with the vaccine mandate and employees are at 100%.
McDonald said as the weather gets colder, people will be spending more time inside, and with cold and flu season approaching, now is the time to begin more testing.
She added there have been “breakthrough” cases of people contracting COVID-19 depsite being vaccinated.
McDonald said the agreements initially made with employee unions concerning requirements of masking and vaccinations also included booster shots when they become available and any testing the University chooses to administer.
She said although the University encourages vaccinated students and employees to get tested, this testing is “low stakes because if somebody is unable to come or doesn’t come, there won’t be a penalty per se.”
This initial sample size will be adjusted depending on the level of participation by the vaccinated population, she added.
The partially vaccinated and exempt populations who fail to comply with their weekly testing will face consequences, including possible withdrawal from courses and a hold on their accounts, which would prevent them from participating in spring course registration, according to McDonald.
In its initial contract with the Broad Institute last year, the University purchased more tests than needed, she said. Therefore, the remaining tests are able to be put toward the weekly testing along with symptomatic testing in the Health Center.
Polymerase Chain Response (PCR) tests are administered for the asymptomatic testing in the gym, while rapid tests will be reserved for symptomatic cases, according to Ilene Hofrenning, director of the Health Center. PCR tests will also be used for symptomatic cases where another test is needed.
Hofrenning emphasized anyone experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 should contact the Health Center and not attend testing in the gym.
Everyone must fill out a survey that asks if they have been experiencing any specific symptoms before entering the gym for testing.
Hofrenning said though she recommends everyone answer the survey honestly, she said she believes the gym is a “low-risk” area for other individuals due to the quick turnaround time for testing – usually under five minutes.
Regarding exposure to COVID-19, Hofrenning explained those who are vaccinated do not have to quarantine, adding being in the classroom is considered low risk. Although, if a classmate does test positive, those students are considered a close contact.
Vaccinated students showing no symptoms are to test five to seven days after exposure, she said, adding this timeline allows students on campus to attend designated testing days.
She said, “So the only thing we ask is that you monitor your symptoms and get tested if you develop any symptoms, which people should be doing anyways.”
Those who are exempt or partially vaccinated will have to quarantine if a student in their class tests positive.
If a student cannot come to class due to exposure or contracting COVID-19, professors are neither required to offer a Zoom alternative to their classes nor give allowances on coursework, according to McDonald.
“Different faculty respond in different ways depending upon the nature of the courses and what they’re able to do, but we can’t require them to teach in two different forms,” she said.
Ellen Zimmerman, interim provost and vice president of Academic A8airs, said she has heard no reports of there “being any resistance to making accommodations for students who need to be absent.”
McDonald added the University asks for professors to understand circumstances may require students to miss classes and to “allow [students] to participate in whatever ways they can to complete the course.”
Students who test positive over Knals or midterms will have to take the exam on a given make-up date, according to Zimmerman.
She said, “In the past, whenever there have been face-to-face exams, we always have a make-up day. I think we’re going to have to think beyond that for this semester, just in case.”