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President Barron: Surveillance Testing Compliance Expected & Required

Penn State President Eric Barron issued a statement via email Thursday afternoon regarding students’ required participation in random surveillance testing.

According to the email, some students are not fulfilling their testing responsibilities and are either delaying their tests or opting for commercial tests that are not reported to Penn State.

Barron said some students at Commonwealth Campuses are ordering their mail-in testing kits but are not following through, while University Park students are using outside testing services.

Barron explained that compliance with surveillance testing is critical in mitigating the spread of the coronavirus. Students are contacted via an email titled “PSU COVID Surveillance Program” and are expected and required to schedule a test.

“The University’s testing protocols help us understand the larger public health picture on campuses and enable us to take mitigation steps that protect community health,” Barron wrote. “To put it plainly, lack of participation weakens Penn State’s ability to manage the virus, and therefore Penn State’s ability to continue in our residential mode of education.”

Barron noted that students who have not followed through with random testing will be contacted, and those who do not complete the process will be held accountable. Since August 17, Penn State has issued nearly 1,300 sanctions for violations of its coronavirus mitigation policies, including 10 suspensions and 17 housing revocations.

Barron also encouraged students to get their flu shots to avoid unnecessary strain on UHS and local community hospitals.

“Through this all, I remain confident, optimistic and appreciative of your efforts. I want to thank all of the Penn State students who have followed requirements on and off campus, and been part of the solution to keep our community safe and allow us — through prevention, testing, contact tracing, quarantine and isolation — to manage this challenge,” Barron wrote. “We are a resilient community, and your cooperation through this unprecedented time has been a tremendous source of pride.”

Since August 7, 2,475 University Park students and one employee have tested positive for the coronavirus.

You can read Barron’s full statement below.

Dear Penn State Students:

As I’ve mentioned on numerous occasions, my observations of our student body are that most individuals are complying with the requirements of wearing a face mask, social distancing, avoiding large gatherings and increased hand hygiene as a way to stop or slow the spread of COVID-19. Thank you for your efforts to protect the in-person experience at Penn State and the health of your fellow students and community members. Keep up the good work! You are making a difference.

There is another requirement that remains a critical factor in our ability to mitigate the spread of this pandemic — compliance with surveillance testing. It is extremely important that students at every campus comply with the random surveillance testing program for which some of you have been contacted via an email message from “PSU COVID Surveillance Program.” I need to reiterate that your participation in random testing is expected and required.

It has come to our attention that some students are not fulfilling this testing responsibility and are either delaying their test or opting for commercial tests that are not reported to the University. At our Commonwealth Campuses where mail-in testing is in place, it appears that some students are ordering the mail-in test kits — as expected and required — but not following through. At University Park, some students are using outside testing services. These actions are not acceptable options. Delaying or dodging testing does not allow for proper treatment for you — and it also puts your friends and family at risk because contact tracing cannot be accomplished.

The University’s testing protocols help us understand the larger public health picture on campuses and enable us to take mitigation steps that protect community health. To put it plainly, lack of participation weakens Penn State’s ability to manage the virus, and therefore Penn State’s ability to continue in our residential mode of education. All students should be working through the Penn State free testing process as outlined in the email they receive. Any student also can call 814-863-4463 to speak with an advice nurse anytime.

Those of you who have not followed through with random testing will be contacted and asked to complete the process. This is a requirement as stated in the Student Compact and an expectation of you being at Penn State. We will hold those who do not follow through accountable. Today’s announcement of student suspensions and other sanctions should help make that clear.

As you know, we are also entering the flu season. It’s very important that you get your flu shot. This will help further protect your health, and avoid causing undue strain on University health services and local community hospitals. This is especially important for the vulnerable in our communities, who may require access to the care of nurses and doctors at a time when health services are additionally stressed.

Through this all, I remain confident, optimistic and appreciative of your efforts. I want to thank all of the Penn State students who have followed requirements on and off campus, and been part of the solution to keep our community safe and allow us — through prevention, testing, contact tracing, quarantine and isolation — to manage this challenge. We are a resilient community, and your cooperation through this unprecedented time has been a tremendous source of pride.

For the latest updates and information, visit virusinfo.psu.edu/faq/child-topic/surveillance-testing-for-students.

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About the Author

Colleen Nersten

Colleen is a sophomore biology major from York, Pa and is one of Onward State's associate editors. She overuses the ~tilde~ and aspires to be no other than the great Guy Fieri. You can find Colleen filling up her gas tank at Rutter’s, the ~superior~ Pennsylvania gas station. Please direct any questions or concerns to [email protected]

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