November 11, 2021
Student worker helps with COVID testing

Sophomore nursing major Karla Gunera is getting front-line experience with keeping the campus safe from COVID-19 as one of 10 student workers at the COVID-19 testing center located at Millennium South Hall, one of CatholicU’s on-campus testing sites. 

“I hoped to learn as much as possible about COVID-19 and how we can keep each other safe, and I can say I have done so,” Gunera said. “Since the start of the pandemic, I have always been interested in it, and by being a part of this job at the Center, I feel as though I am making an impact and actively working to stop it.”

The student workers handle all of the mechanics of the testing experience, including checking in students for appointments, verifying eligibility, explaining the testing protocol, and providing support for students who may be uncomfortable or uncertain about the testing protocol. The students also  log and tag testing samples to a student's ‘Safer Community’ app, the technology used by Student Health. 

“The students have played a key role in our ability to test several hundred students every week,” said Harry R. Knabe, special assistant to the associate vice president for Student Affairs and Dean of Students, who is coordinating the University’s COVID-19 logistics and response protocols. 

Catholic University’s positivity rate is below 0.4 percent. Several hundred tests are administered on campus each week, as reported on the University’s COVID-19 dashboard.

The first campus testing center was established in fall  2020 in Millennium North Hall. That site focused on testing symptomatic students and currently is used for students who are experiencing illness or individuals who have been identified as recent close contacts of someone who is COVID-19 positive. 

As more students returned for the spring 2021 semester, the University opened the testing center in Millennium South Hall, which is where the students work and surveillance testing is done, using the saliva-based Shield T3 test.

“The active testing program enables us to identify where the virus may be, to deploy contract tracing, and to contain the spread,” said Knabe. “This term, with Catholic University being fully in-person, we wanted to increase our overall capacity to test more of our community more frequently.”

Gunera said she has learned to be very patient working at the Center: “Sometimes we get students who ask repeatedly why they have to take this test, why they have to download the app, or why they have to be randomly selected again. We learn to respond in a nice manner and inform them.” 

“If we plan on being on campus safely, testing has to be done. It is the only way we can ensure our plans are working,” said Gunera.

Knabe added, “Our best way to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 is to actively test. We want every student to fully benefit from an entirely in-person experience, to do that in a safe and healthy way. The testing center and the work done by the team here helps every student achieve that goal.”