SIUE’s decision to mandate COVID-19 testing for all returning students and faculty brought the difficulty of testing a large population of people along with it.
For COVID-19 Response Coordinator Michael Schultz, the first task was finding a company to take on testing the university. He said Shield Illinois was the first company he hoped would do the job.
“First we were going to go with Shield Illinois with the University of Illinois system and that was our plan,” Schultz said. “We gave them a deadline of when they needed to be FDA approved and they weren’t [approved by the deadline].”
Instead, he went with GENETEWORx, a testing company based out of Virginia. There were four categories that were most important to fill for the company to be chosen: a non-invasive saliva test, a way to accept insurance and process it, a company-provided staff to work at the testing sites and the price.
Schultz said GENETEWORx was able to meet all those requirements.
Jan. 4 was the first day of testing at the Student Fitness Center on the Edwardsville campus, but only 40 percent of the staff showed up.
“It was a surprise to them [GENETEWORx]. They were on the phones trying to get it resolved and so forth,” Schultz said. “They had meetings on that Monday night to make sure it didn’t happen again on Tuesday and it happened again on Tuesday.”
In order to combat the lack of staff provided by the GENETEWORx subcontractors, Schultz took it upon himself to call in some SIUE staff.
“There were three or four Housing staff workers, two [from] Health Services and Vice Chancellor Waple that worked that site,” Schultz said.
After the first couple days of testing, the layout of the testing site at the Student Fitness Center changed frequently, but Schultz said this was in order to make the process even more efficient for those getting tested. Changes were made due to the increased amount of time for collection of saliva and lack of staff provided.
Originally five milliliters of saliva were needed for the testing, but during the testing process the laboratory’s standards changed.
“The lab has changed their requirements… they only need two milliliters. So yeah, it’s gone from five to two,” Schultz said.
The Aura application was used to facilitate the process of making an appointment to get tested. Students and staff were asked to download the application to ease the process of making an appointment.
“Everything went smooth for me personally,” junior elementary education major Katelyn Patterson of Hamel, Illinois, said. “I had an easy time making an appointment but my coworker must have signed up without the app and thought there were only so many spots open and that everything was booked.”
Schultz said SIUE’s East St. Louis campus had one testing date because their campus is operating remotely, meaning only the administrative staff needed to be tested, which is around 25 to 50 people. He had learned, after the dates were set for testing sites, that more than 150 people from the East St. Louis campus wanted to get tested.
Test results have taken anywhere from 24 hours to up to a week to get back. Schultz said since GENETEWORx is based in Virginia, they used Federal Express to drive the day’s tests to their laboratory. Some delays occurred when the trucks weren’t able to meet their delivery times.
SIUE plans to continue testing throughout the semester, but it will be on a randomized, voluntary basis. For those who volunteer to get tested, they will be offered an incentive, said Director of Health Services Riane Greenwalt.
“There is sort of an incentive if you do participate,” Greenwalt said. “So for faculty, staff and students there’s some Cougar bucks, and for students there’s an opportunity to be in a lottery for bigger prizes at the end of the semester.”
For the latest testing information and statistics, visit SIUE’s COVID dashboard.