Union College sets up weekly student coronavirus testing for Fall term

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SCHENECTADY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — It’s unprecedented times for colleges in New York State and around the nation.

“I’ve sat in a lot of classes and sat in a lot of trainings, but I don’t think I ever sat through a pandemic preparedness course,” says Union College Student Affairs Vice President and Dean of Students Francee Brown-McClure of her 14 years in higher education.

Nonetheless, administrators at Union College in Schenectady feel they’re well prepared to welcome their students back safely. They’ve set up a coronavirus testing site in the Memorial Field House and have taken in 37 students so far this week.

“We have students who are here who are student leaders, who are RA’s getting ready, so those are the students that are coming in right now,” Brown-McClure explains to NEWS10’s Mikhaela Singleton.

She explains many of these students are also those coming from other countries or states on New York’s travel advisory list.

“They come and sign in and before they take their monitored self-swab test, they sign up for their testing schedule, which will be weekly. We want to have that planned well in advance,” Brown-McClure says.

So far, the college expects about 80 percent of its 2,200 student population will return for in-person learning. The new policy will require every on-campus student to get a weekly test, amounting to around 17,600 tests by December.

“We’re very confident in our PPE supplies, we have an amazing staff that has been planning and stocking up for this for months. We also work with the Broad Institute, the testing lab in Massachusetts, and they’ve provided us with the necessary testing materials to make that happen,” Brown-McClure explains. “We’ve actually had our first test results come back and they came in right under 24 hours.”

Students also need to get used to the new safety standards — like New York’s mask mandate.

“We recognize that our students are coming from all over the world and the country and that’s not the case everywhere,” Brown-McClure says.

So Union put together some care packages to help students along once they pass through the testing phase.

“They’ll receive two masks, black or garnet depending on your fashion choices for the day, they’ll receive a thermometer to make sure that they can test their temperature at any point, and then they’ll also receive hand sanitizer that can be refilled at different refill stations across campus,” she shows NEWS10.

Once quarantine students made it through testing and picking up their PPE, they’re moved to the off-campus site for 14 days. Brown-McClure says Union set up a “Quarantine Support Squad” to make sure students are well cared for and also happy.

“That’s some staff and some coaches that are checking in on our students every day. Our health services staff are checking in with those students every day, just monitoring their vitals, and we have activities that are put on by our student activities staff every night to make sure that they are engaged,” she explains.

“Also it’s quarantine you know, they can’t leave. So we’ve partnered with GrubHub to try and support the local businesses in the Schenectady community. We understand this has been a rough time for them too,” she goes on to say.

Brown-McClure also adds the virtual hang outs and activities for quarantined students will be extended to both the 20 percent virtual learning population and in-person classmates who will be back for a socially distanced school year in a few weeks.

“It can be very lonely and very isolating, and we want them to know that we are here for them and that we’re thinking about them,” Brown-McClure says.


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