In an attempt to better monitor COVID-19 cases on campus, the College of Charleston will require mandatory testing for students throughout the spring semester, university officials announced Wednesday.
All students living in university-owned historic homes or residence halls are also required to submit a coronavirus test prior to moving in, university President Andrew Hsu told board members during a special-called meeting.
On-campus students start moving in by appointment Thursday, and the first day of class is Monday.
Last semester, the college hosted a total of 17 voluntary on-campus coronavirus testing events for staff and students, Hsu said, for an average of one event every other week.
Some C of C students and faculty expressed concerns that the decision to encourage, but not require, students to get tested resulted in an underreported picture of virus activity on campus.
To address this, the university will host weekly testing opportunities throughout the spring semester. Each week, students will be randomly selected to get tested, Hsu said.
Testing will be conducted by the Medical University of South Carolina and the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control. The first week of mandatory testing will take place the week of Jan. 25.
The plan is to test 300 randomly selected students each week, said college spokesman Ron Menchaca, with an additional 50 appointments available for others who want to be tested. These specifics remain tentative until they are finalized with MUSC and DHEC, Menchaca said.
Those who fail to show up for mandatory testing the first time will not be penalized. Students who don’t participate in the required testing a second time will have their College of Charleston identification/access card, also known as their Cougar Card, suspended until they comply.
According to the college’s website, students use their Cougar Card to access university events, facilities and services.
“The greater frequency and the randomized sampling will provide us with a much better picture for understanding virus transmission on our campus,” Hsu said.
Clemson University required mandatory coronavirus testing for its students in the fall. Starting Monday, all faculty, staff and students will be required to test weekly.
Officials at the University of South Carolina announced in December that it will require students to take monthly COVID-19 tests during the spring semester. Those who don’t participate could be fined or suspended.
The high level of COVID-19 activity over the summer caused C of C officials to delay the start of in-person classes by two weeks in the fall.
Despite a recent post-holiday surge in virus activity, the College of Charleston’s spring semester will begin Monday with a mix of in-person, online-only and hybrid courses.
Approximately 40 percent of classes will be online-only, Menchaca said. The remainder will be a mix of in-person or hybrid, with the majority falling under the online/in-person hybrid model.
“Of course the current positive COVID-19 numbers are alarming across the country and the state, and we are and will do whatever is necessary to maintain the health and safety of our students and faculty members,” Hsu said.
The university will continue to follow the COVID-19 health and safety protocol established in the spring, Hsu said, meaning students, faculty and staff will be required to socially distance and wear masks while on campus.
“I’m confident that we have a great plan in place to navigate these challenges and make this semester a success,” Hsu said.
To date, 603 C of C students and 39 employees have tested positive for the virus, according to the college’s dashboard.
This content was originally published here.