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University to start random testing

Troy University will begin randomly testing students and faculty for COVID-19 next week.

According to an email sent to students by Dr. Lance Tatum, senior vice president for academic affairs, the university will randomly select 3 to 5 percent of the campus population for testing each week to determine how much of the COVID-19 virus is spreading.

The university has a reported enrollment of about 6,600 students on the Troy campus and as of Friday afternoon had tallied more than 260 self-reported cases among students since Aug. 3, or about 4 percent of the local student body. More than a dozen among employees on the campus. The university has identified cluster outbreaks at two fraternity houses and has suspended fraternity activities until after Labor Day due to the infections.

In his email, Tatum said students will receive an email alerting them if selected for the testing.

“This test is not mandatory, but we urge anyone who is selected to participate,” he wrote. “As we know, many people who have COVID-19 display no symptoms and may be spreading the virus to others without knowing it. Random testing will help us identify asymptomatic carriers and keep the campus safe.”

The testing is part of the GuideSafe Sentinel Testing program, which is being deployed at college campuses across Alabama.

If selected, students and faculty are to report to the Elm Street Gym, where the free nasal swab tests will be administered. Results are expected within 36 hours and anyone who tests positive is required to isolate immediately at home or in an off-campus residence.

Currently, the university has “limited isolation spaces” that can be provided, Tatum wrote.

In addition, Tatum also urged students to continue to practice safety guidelines while away from campus during the Labor Day Holiday.

“Exercise good judgement and remember to adhere to the following guidelines,” he wrote, adding:

• Observe social distancing and limit the size of gatherings.

Wear face coverings when social distancing is not possible or difficult to maintain. Face coverings are particularly important as you visit public settings where there may be larger numbers of people.

Practice good hand hygiene by frequently washing your hands with soap or using hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available.

Stay home if you are sick. Adhering to this guidance is critical if we are to stop the spread of COVID-19. Should you feel sick upon your return to campus following the Labor Day weekend, we encourage you to seek testing at the Student Health Center.”

The reminder echoes concerns expressed by state health officials this week that a spike in cases could occur after Labor Day.  “We really don’t want Labor Day to be a replay of Independence Day or Memorial Day. We don’t want September to look like July looked because I just don’t know if our health care system would be able to tolerate that,” said Dr. Scott Harris, state public health officer.

The Alabama Department of Public Health Friday update reported a total of 119,289 confirmed cases statewide with 11,104 probable and 2,144 confirmed deaths with 122 probable.

Pike County returned to the “high risk” category.The weekly COVID-19 risk ratings issues by the ADPH shifted Pike County back into the second-highest risk category. The metrics are based on declining new cases for the week prior. The High Risk category indicates 1 to 6 days of decreasing case counts.

As of 10 a.m. Friday, the ADPH had reported a total of 837 cases of COVID-19 since tracking began in March, with seven confirmed deaths. The ADPH reported an additional 187 probably cases, which are determined by use of rapid-response antigen tests.

Troy University cases are not included in the ADPH totals unless the student is full-time resident of Pike County.