VCU offering free COVID-19 testing amid students’ winter break worries

VCU students Anh Hoang, left, and Neya Singh wear masks as they work in Monroe Park. Photo by Enza Marcy

Sanjana Ravulapalli, Contributing Writer

Mass communications major Julia Daum is heading home and traveling out of state during winter break. But due to Richmond’s case numbers, the sophomore said she will get a precautionary COVID-19 test before she returns to Fauquier County. 

As the end of the semester approaches, students are preparing to head home for winter break. With more than 400 total positive cases of COVID-19 reported on the university’s dashboard, students are contemplating how to keep themselves and their families safe during the nearly two-month-long break.

Daum said her at-home community has been handling the pandemic well. Fauquier County has reported 1,291 total coronavirus cases as of Tuesday, per the Virginia Department of Health. Daum will be working during the break, and said she plans to get tested periodically so she doesn’t put anyone at risk.

“Both my parents have been extremely safe,” Daum said in a direct message. “We live out in the country, so there aren’t many people/crowds.”

VCU reported 434 total cases of COVID-19 this semester and about a 25% positivity rate, according to the university dashboard on Tuesday. Students who test positive or are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms must report to Student Health Services. 

VCU implemented restrictions and resources to protect against the spread of the virus and will continue to do so upon return from winter break. Restrictions and resources include:

  • Health checks for students on and off campus 
  • Supply kits with hand sanitizer and masks 
  • Encouraging physical distancing guidelines 
  • Requiring return-to-campus training

Psychology major Sanika Lawate said she will be following guidelines by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, such as washing her hands for 20 seconds, wiping down groceries and practicing social distancing while home for break. 

Lawate said her family and friends have been careful to limit interactions with others and wear masks, but she’s concerned COVID-19 cases could spike nationwide as people gather for the holidays.

“People really want to see their families, especially for the holidays,” the senior said. “Even if they are taking precautions, it’s still worrisome.”

According to Director of Communications and Marketing Matthew Lovisa, VCU is offering optional, no-cost exit testing for students returning home. Residential and off-campus VCU students can sign up for an at-will testing appointment on the OneVCU website.

“Students who plan to return home, especially those who may have contact with at-risk family members, are urged to participate in exit testing,” Lovisa said in an email.

Residential students will be required to take another COVID-19 entry test and must test negative in order to return to campus and regain access to spring semester residence halls. VCU recommends that students follow CDC guidelines for travel during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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