Wednesday, August 17, 2022

At-home COVID-19 tests: W&M expects students to stick to the ‘honor code’

William & Mary students practice social distancing at the Sunken Garden. (WYDaily/Stephen Salpukas, W&M News)
William & Mary students practice social distancing at the Sunken Garden. (WYDaily/Stephen Salpukas, W&M News)

William & Mary plans to welcome back its students for the fall semester during the coronavirus but with some requirements.

One of them is having students test themselves for COVID-19 prior to coming to campus.

“Students will receive a self-administered, mail-in test kit prior to coming to campus,” according to the COVID-19 Testing announcement on the university’s website. Test kits will arrive in time for students to self-administer the test, mail it back along with the required consent form, and get test results before they are due to arrive on campus.”

All students are required to take the test, which is paid for by the university at no charge to students.

But how will William & Mary ensure the credibility of each test?

The answer: By giving students the benefit of the doubt and relying on the university’s honor code.

“Adherence to the protocol for administering the at-home COVID test kit is up to the honor and integrity of each of our students,” university spokeswoman Suzanne Clavet wrote in an email Wednesday. “Given our honor code and our newly established Community Commitment, we have confidence in the results of this testing.”

Clavet said the health and well-being of students, faculty and staff and the Williamsburg community has been the university’s top priority and they have been committed to flattening the curve since the spring with the testing requirements being the most recent example of the school’s efforts.

“Having testing data available before the majority of students return to campus is important to facilitate the healthiest and safest return for students – for them individually, for the campus as a whole and for the greater Williamsburg community,” she wrote.

WYDaily asked Clavet why W&M did not ask the students to go a doctor and receive a doctor’s note instead of testing themselves at home.

She said the university chose self-testing at home for students to have more consistent testing data, let students who are positive and asymptomatic know they have the virus and other reasons.

“This centralized testing approach allows the university to contribute to the public health data analysis that is helping to drive Virginia’s, as well as the university’s, responses to the pandemic,” she wrote. “Using a centralized vendor allowed the university to pay for the testing.”

The college recently partnered with VCU Health System for the test kits and random sample testing during the semester as well as other physical and mental heath resources for the community.

Staff members who wish to get tested must pay $15 for the COVID-19 test.

It’s unclear why testing is required for students before coming to campus but not for faculty members and staff.

The new testing requirements is one of the many changes the university is implementing to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. Other changes include wearing masks indoors, requiring social distancing around campus and preparing students to pack for 2-3 weeks, since the university could close at a moment’s notice.

W&M opened Wednesday and students are expected to arrive on campus starting August through the first week of September with undergraduate courses starting Aug. 19.

“We will slow the pace of student return to campus through August, to Labor Day Weekend, so as to minimize density and reduce circulation on/off campus,” William & Mary President Katherine Rowe announced on July 31. “We will delay the start of in-person undergraduate instruction until after Labor Day, so as to ensure consistent experiences for all students, on and off campus, during a more extended return to campus.”

As of Thursday, there are 95,867 cases, 8,183 hospitalizations and 2,299 deaths in Virginia, according to the Virginia Department of Health’s website.

The number of coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths in the Historic Triangle as of August 6, according to the Virginia Department of Health's website. (WYDaily/ Julia Marsigliano)
The number of coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths in the Historic Triangle as of Aug. 6, according to the Virginia Department of Health’s website. (WYDaily/ Julia Marsigliano)

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Julia Marsiglianohttp://wydaily.com
Julia Marsigliano is a multimedia reporter for WYDaily. She covers everything on the Peninsula from local government and law enforcement agencies to family-run businesses and weather updates. Before WYDaily, she covered Hampton and Newport News for WYDaily’s sister publication, HNNDaily before both publications merged in December 2018. Julia was born in Tokyo, Japan and moved to Long Island, New York in 2001. A true New Yorker, she loves pizza, bagels and good Chinese food. Send comments, tips and other tidbits to julia@localvoicemedia.com. You can follow her on Twitter at @jmarsigliano

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