Two hundred and thirty students did not receive a negative COVID-19 test result before the first day of the fall semester, Vice President and General Counsel Shannon Sinclair said. Students who registered for in-person classes and did not get their results on time had to retest on Aug. 28, according to an email sent to the affected students by the Student Health Center on Aug. 27.
Of the 230 students who did not receive clearance through a negative test result approved by the University of Richmond, 55 registered for in-person classes but did not sign up for a time slot to get tested upon arrival at UR, Sinclair said. Other students who had to retest included those who did not show a qualifying PCR COVID-19 test upon arrival to campus and those who did not show up to their testing appointments, Sinclair said. PCR tests are molecular tests collected from nasal or throat swabs, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Additionally, some students who were part of the initial testing had to get retested because their swabs did not have enough material to yield conclusive results, or because the SecureHealth lab, a startup conducting COVID-19 tests at UR and the Greater Richmond Transit Company, could not locate their tests, Sinclair said.
UR started looking for an organization with the capability of conducting COVID-19 tests on campus in May, Sinclair said. During the search process, UR started working with SecureHealth, which was founded by UR alumni Mark Rausch.
"They've been a great partner to work with in terms of our testing," Sinclair said.
Students who had to get retested for COVID-19 received an email from the health center on Aug. 27 informing them that they needed to be retested, according to a copy of the email obtained by The Collegian.
In the email, health center employees apologized to students for the inconvenience and instructed them to go to the Robins Center the following day between 10 a.m. and noon to be tested.
Students who had to retest and were not able to do so on Aug. 28 were able to schedule testing appointments at other times, Sinclair said.
Students who did not receive negative test results or were not otherwise cleared by UR before Aug. 24 were not allowed to attend classes in person or go to their on-campus jobs until they had received a negative test result, Steve Bisese, vice president for student development, wrote in an email to students on Aug. 21.
Senior Anthony Thomassey got tested on Aug. 21 but did not receive his test result until Aug. 30 and could not attend his in-person classes the first week of school, he said.
“That first day was interesting because of the Zoom outage in the morning,” Thomassey said. “... One of my classes, it was funny. Like the last 20 minutes or so in class, I just didn't have audio. So I didn't hear a single word [my professor] was saying.”
Even though students who had not yet received their test results were expected to self-quarantine and wear a mask, according to UR’s COVID-19 guidelines, they were allowed to remain in their residence halls and go to the Heilman Dining Center and other campus dining facilities, according to the guidelines.
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Throughout the first week of classes, some students who had not received their results contacted the health center and other UR officials for more information, but they were not given specific answers, juniors Magnolia Stuart and Thomassey said.
Stuart, who got tested on Aug. 20, said throughout the first week of classes she had been in contact with the health center and Westhampton College Deans Mia Reinoso Genoni and Zara Sibtain.
"[Genoni and Sibtain] were both super helpful to me," Stuart said, "but again, no one was really giving me an answer as to whether or not they actually had my test."
Stuart emailed the health center three times and sent the third email on Aug. 27, she said.
“I copied Dean Genoni and Dean Sibtain on [the third] email,” Stuart said. “I basically just said ‘Hey, I’m emailing a third time; I'm missing out on my classes; like, I'm having a hard time with my remote classes; and I really just want to know: 'Do you have my test or not?'”
After Stuart’s third email, she received an email the same day from Tom Roberts, associate vice president of health and well-being, which wrote that she would get her results later that day, she said.
But, instead, Stuart was notified by the mass email sent to all students who had to get retested that she would be a part of retesting the following day, she said.
Genoni expressed sympathy to students who had to retest in a statement sent to The Collegian on Sept. 24.
"Our community worked really hard to handle all the complicated logistics of testing," she wrote. "It was difficult for any student who had a delay in their testing, as it was for the many staff members who were working to make sure all the testing was completed. I’m very grateful for everyone’s hard work and care for our community."
Thomassey said he had contacted the health center via email throughout the first week of classes after not receiving his results until Aug. 30 and had been told that they were looking into the issue. Ultimately, he got the same email as Stuart instructing him to retest.
The email sent to Stuart and Thomassey informing them they would need to be retested stated that staff were aware that students would be returning to the Robins Center for testing, according to the email. But Stuart and Thomassey said staff had been confused about students' presence at the Robins Center on Aug. 28.
“Another person who was there was also one of the people who had their test lost,” Stuart said. “So, we were both there and [staff] didn't know we were coming, and then we were like, ‘Literally, you told us to show up here.’
"So, yeah, it wasn't super crowded, but they also didn't really know we were there.”
Thomassey had a similar interaction with testing staff, he said.
“We went [to the testing area] and the lady was like, ‘I don't have your name on the list,’” Thomassey said. “I was like, ‘I got this email from the student health center.' She really didn't know what to do.
"She was blindsided, from what I could tell. She just wrote down my name, so I just went to get the test anyway.”
Another student, senior Julia Straka, attempted to get tested for COVID-19 through a clinic unaffiliated with UR but was unable to do so because of time restraints, she said. UR was able to accommodate her to get tested on Aug. 26, and she obtained her results by the morning of Aug. 28, she said. Straka attended her classes online from her off-campus apartment in Richmond until she received her negative test result, she said.
Straka said she was glad to have been able to get tested at UR.
"I just went to the little [a] trailer they have set [behind the health center] it was just me and the lady who tested me," Straka said. "It was very quick. It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be."
For Thomassey, having to self-quarantine for an additional week was isolating, he said.
"You know, you wanted to come back to campus so you could return to some sense of normalcy," he said, "but in a way, it feels like I'm still stuck at home."
For Stuart, not receiving her test on time was frustrating, she said.
"I have had to miss all of my in-person classes because all my classes are in person," she said. "And I've just had to do remote learning which has sucked, and [testing staff] didn't even know I was coming, which was really frustrating."
Contact news editor Jackie Llanos at email@example.com.
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