GV widens COVID-19 testing program as delta variant surges


Aubree L Wagner

GVL / Aubree Wagner

Josh Alburtus, Staff Writer

With coronavirus cases spiking across the U.S. amid the emergence of the Delta variant, Grand Valley State University is expanding its COVID-19 testing efforts to protect students and staff.

GVSU’s testing program, fueled by the university’s Virus Action Team, began in August of 2020. To date, it has administered nearly 90,000 nasal swab coronavirus tests to students and faculty in partnership with Spectrum Health. However, with variants and vaccine hesitancy in the area threatening to alter the fight against the virus, GVSU is not taking any chances. 

Whereas last year’s testing program relied heavily on randomly selecting students and staff to receive tests, this year’s program has been adapted to feature easier access to testing across the board.

This year, tests are being made available for both vaccinated and unvaccinated students and staff, regardless of whether they are experiencing symptoms of the virus. With GVSU’s vaccination mandate taking effect on Sept. 30, students granted medical or religious exemptions will be required to test weekly. According to the university’s Virus Action Team website on testing and contact tracing, appointments are required for symptomatic test recipients. For asymptomatic recipients, walk-in tests are available to those who fill out their daily self-assessment.

“[Students and faculty] have to have passed their self-assessment to come test through our asymptomatic side,” said Victoria Harrison, a GVSU COVID-19 nurse.

Additionally, the university has consolidated testing locations, offering both symptomatic and asymptomatic testing in the Thornapple Room of the university’s Kirkhof Center on its Allendale Campus, according to the Lakers Together website. There, as well as at its asymptomatic testing site in the Eberhard Center lobby of the university’s Pew Campus, GVSU COVID-19 nurses like Harrison oversee the administration of the tests.

“It’s a service we provide for anyone affiliated with Grand Valley,” Harrison said. “Anyone can get tested at any time; there is no requirement.”

Widening test availability and other new measures for the program come as the need for additional testing is felt across GVSU’s campus. Even with rising vaccination rates among students and faculty, some still believe such need for testing cannot be underestimated. Natasha Sokolow, a senior at GVSU and employee at the university’s Laker Store, believes new and changing circumstances are key reasons why testing remains vital.

“I think it’s important just because, with the Delta virus, it’s hard even though you’re vaccinated,” Sokolow said. “[Vaccination is] not a 100-percent certainty that everything’s going to be fine.”

Other members of the GVSU community, like senior Daphnie Uhrich, tout the program’s rapid test results as a critical tool for the student body.

“I think it’s important because, a lot of times, people need those rapid test results in order to have their jobs and go to school and just continue their day-to-day lives,” Uhrich said. “It’s really important because a lot of people don’t have access.”

Previously, testing offered by the university could take as long as several days to return results. This year, however, the university’s widespread implementation of antigen testing is allowing for test results in as little as one hour according to Harrison. 

“It’s a pretty smooth process,” Harrison said. “They get them in, get them out pretty quickly and they’ll be notified of the results later on that day.”

Such rapid results help the university to better contain and track potential outbreaks, as COVID-19 hospitalizations increase in Michigan.

For more information about Grand Valley’s 2021-22 testing program, visit https://www.gvsu.edu/lakerstogether/testing-and-contact-tracing-28.htm.