By Ken Stone
San Diego State University announced Tuesday that all students who live on campus — about 2,400 — are now required to get COVID-19 tested, with limited exceptions including religious objections.
“Surveillance testing” for the coronavirus begins Wednesday through Saturday and again Monday, Sept. 21. About 500 students will be tested daily.
“All students living in SDSU residence halls and apartments will be assigned testing slots at either the Student Health Services Calpulli Center or the HHSA testing location at the Parma Payne Goodall Alumni Center, 5250 55th St., located just west of Viejas Arena,” the school said in a letter signed by SDSU President Adela de la Torre and three others.Students will be notified of their assigned testing window, along with instructions on what to do, via email to their SDSU email address.
School officials said COVID-19 testing has been available for all enrolled students since Aug. 11, “and we have been very pleased by the high percentage of students who have voluntarily sought regular testing.”
Faculty and staff also are being tested through a partnership with the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency.
Due to “swift and proactive” efforts, San Diego State hasn’t had any COVID-positive cases among faculty or staff, an online press briefing said. But 73% of student positives were among freshmen and sophomores, said J. Luke Wood, vice president for student affairs and campus diversity.
Wood said SDSU has received 420 reports of student violations related to the virus, and “we will be moving forward with sanctions” for people or groups found breaking rules.
He also said students will face “consequences” if they don’t submit to testing, but “we believe the majority will. … I think we will see a positive response.”
He told the media in a 35-minute session that the “limited exceptions” to the testing order include students who are ill, can’t reach the testing stations because of disability or who have tested positive in the past 90 days. Religious objections also will be taken into account, Wood said.
“This is an all-hands-on-deck approach,” Wood said. “There’s no such thing as a silver bullet…. It’s a silver buckshot.”
Corinne McDaniels-Davidson, director of SDSU’s Institute for Public Health, reminded students to take the illness seriously.
“We’re hearing people act like a negative test is a hall pass to do whatever you want,” she said. “It’s not. A test is just a snapshot of a particular moment.”
She said a person could become infected on their way home from receiving a test, and that it’s important to maintain constant vigilance.
On Monday, SDSU reported 21 new COVID-19 cases among students, bringing the total number of student cases to 642 since the fall semester began Aug. 24.
University officials said they were aware of 638 confirmed cases among students and four probable cases.
The majority of the cases are students living off-campus in San Diego, according to the university. About 75% of students testing positive live in off-campus housing not managed by the university, with 73% of the cases among the freshman and sophomore classes.
WATCH: Dr. Wilma Wooten said SDSU's COVID-19 cases are contributing to a surge that could push San Diego back into more business restrictions as soon as next week. Without SDSU's cases, the county would stay in the red tier. https://t.co/2Gugads8sA pic.twitter.com/F1H4BokWuK
— NBC 7 San Diego (@nbcsandiego) September 15, 2020
Testing is offered at no cost, and all students will get a $5 Starbucks voucher when they show their SDSU card. Ten students will also be randomly selected to receive $100 gift cards to the SDSU Bookstore.
Updated at 4:13 p.m. Sept. 15, 2020
— City News Service contributed to this report.
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