Southern Arkansas University reports zero positive cases in isolation on campus for the first time, attributes that milestone to rapid testing machines

Arkansas News

EL DORADO, Ark. (KTVE/KARD) — Students across the country have been on edge about this Coronavirus pandemic but some that attend Southern Arkansas University at Magnolia are pleased with how faculty and staff are trying to minimize the spread.

The unknown surrounding the virus sent students home last school year and they are all just hoping it doesn’t happen again.

“When you come to SAU, you find your forever friends and your forever home and when you have to leave so suddenly not knowing when you’ll be back, it’s scary,” Dawsyn Smith said.

Students were able to return to campus last month and are now tackling the virus on their campus while following policies and procedures to remain safe.

This week, the university reported 87 cumulative cases with 18 current active cases but a recent update has given the university something to be proud of.

“In the past 10 days our numbers have steadily gone down and we have zero positive cases on our campus of students that are living on our campus. We have students that have chosen to go home to wait out their quarantine,” University President, Dr. Trey Berry said.

“The max we ever had in isolated quarantine was not over 25.”

Dr. Berry attributes that to the rapid testing machines the university purchased in July. They began looking early for how they could acquire one of those machines but there was a delay in shipping.

Eventually, they found the machines in stock in Dallas. One of the university’s staff members drove there to pick it up so they could have it on campus.

Weeks later, the first machine they ordered arrived in the mail so they ended up with two testing machines.

“I can’t tell you what a difference that has made for our campus. We have these machines and we get the results in 15 minutes. It allows us to react very quickly to any issue we have if we have to move students into a quarantine room or an isolation room,” Dr. Berry said.

Students like Dawsyn Smith commended the university’s proactive effort in doing everything they can do to ease student’s coronavirus fears.

“As a student we rely on our faculty and staff. I think that number zero proves they are trying to stop the spread on campus,” Smith said.

Health Services on campus administers the testing outside of their clinic. Students are able to drive up in their cars and get tested without having to enter into the building.

“We can test them down there and it is convenient for our students especially if they don’t have transportation,” Director of Health Services, Amanda Hanson said. “It’s good for us as providers to know and have those immediate results so that we know if they are positive.”

With its quick results, Dr. Berry is certain the tests are accurate.

“What we’ve discovered is that our tests, because we’ve buffered that against ourselves, is absolutely showing up. We’ve had students test here negative and then go to a clinic and test negative so that’s also showing up,” Dr. Berry said.

“We’ve also consulted with epidemiologists in the state and other places and they testify to the accuracy of the type of machine we have.”

Students are notified by a phone call or text message from one of the nurses about their test results.

If a student tests positive, they are not allowed back to their dorm rooms. They are sent directly to an isolation room on campus so that they don’t expose any more people.

“We have our health services that goes to get their belongings that they’re going to need for the quarantine time. We also have people on campus that we call food runners. They deliver meals each day to the door in the quarantine rooms and in the isolation rooms,” Dr. Berry said.

“It keeps them safe. They don’t have to go out of their rooms to make sure they are safe and that the entire campus is safe.”

The university is using “rooms that can be isolated from other rooms” like efficiency apartments where students have their own bathrooms and amenities to try not to expose other people to that.

The university believes this will make a difference in the school year. Right now, they’re waiting a few days to see the effects from Labor Day.

To keep up with daily coronvairus case updates at SAU visit this link.

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