Creighton required all undergraduate students to get tested for COVID-19 prior to the start of the spring semester, but a snowstorm and the testing deadline caused a large number of students to gather at the testing site in the Kiewit Fitness Center on Tuesday, Jan. 26.
Because a large snowstorm caused Creighton’s campus, including the COVID-19 testing center, to close on Jan. 25, many students who hadn’t already been tested went to the testing site on Tuesday.
By Tuesday afternoon, the wait for students to get tested was estimated to be an hour, with the line winding out of the main area in the KFC into the hallway and up the stairs.
Melissa Lindauer, assistant director of employee health, who was working at the testing site administering nasal swabs, said that 1,998 students were tested that day.
“[Tuesday] was just challenging with trying to get essentially double the amount of people tested on one day,” she said.
Kayla Schilke, a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences, works for the Office of Health Education and Compliance and was working at the check-in desk at the testing site on Jan. 26. She called the situation a “perfect storm.”
“Definitely closing campus and the testing center on Monday created that environment where we tested [1,998] students,” Schilke said. “And I don’t know if it would have been quite as crazy as it was [had that not happened].”
Sarah Knight, a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences, said she waited for over an hour to get tested.
“I was concerned by the amount of people they had in a very, very small space,” Knight said.
Lindauer, who was working to administer nasal swabs that day, said that although the line was busy, there was no change in their safety precautions.
“We continued to follow all of our infection control practices,” she said. “We just had to work hard to get through that line, but there wasn’t any change to our process or procedure.”
Tanya Winegard, vice provost for student life, acknowledged that the long lines did make distancing difficult at times.
“We did have staffing that was encouraging distancing, and we saw great cooperation from our students,” she said. “We did see a little bit of laxness from some people’s adherence to that distancing piece,” Winegard said, adding that a gentle reminder to students to remain distant was generally successful.
However, some students, like Knight, were still wary about the situation.
“I think they should have maybe had testing open until at least that Friday and just had people go to online classes until they could get tested or get their results back,” Knight said.
Winegard, said that although the situation on Tuesday was not ideal, the Creighton COVID-19 Strategy and Implementation Team determined that getting students tested before classes started remained the goal.
“We would acknowledge that [the long line] was less than ideal,” Winegard said, “but we are also very grateful that students understood the need for them to come and test and understood why Creighton was doing it and made the effort to be there.”
Winegard said that, in hindsight, the only change that could have possibly been made to limit the number of students in line was to have students sign up for time slots.
“We had time slots for residence hall students, and maybe we could have had time slots for off campus students ... once we realized we lost a day of testing.”
“That’s the only change I think we could have made to just kind of manage the line and decrease the weight and the potential for close contact with other people,” she said.
Lindauer also said that a similar number of students were tested on the previous Saturday – 1,060.
However, Schilke, who did not work on that Saturday, talked to other employees in the office who said the lines felt much less hectic and more spread-out that day.
“I think they were just able to move people through a lot faster [on Saturday],” she said.
The university had previously announced that all undergraduate students would receive a blue wristband after getting tested, which would be needed to get onto campus starting Jan. 27 until Feb. 1.
The blue wristband was given to students immediately after testing and did not signify whether the test was negative or positive.
Winegard said that the purpose of the wristbands was only “to verify that a student did engage in testing.”
Knight said that she was slightly concerned that the wristbands did not signify a negative test.
Winegard said that Creighton was comfortable with having students receive the wristband immediately because of all of the other safety precautions Creighton has in place and the knowledge that the test results would arrive soon for students.
“[If] students would have to come back with test results and get a wristband, it would possibly negatively impact students as far as accessing where they live on campus and things along those lines,” Winegard said.
In response to the snowstorm, long lines and wristband requirement, Winegard said Creighton decided to extend the hours for testing on Wednesday for students who weren’t able to get tested on Tuesday.
As of Jan. 1, there have been 134 positive cases on campus, 122 of which were students.
In the week ending Feb. 6, 18 students and one employee have tested positive for COVID-19 at Creighton.
The Douglas County positivity rate for COVID-19 as of Feb. 6 was 20.8%.