SELINSGROVE — Susquehanna University administrators are holding quarantine drills with students in the event of an outbreak of COVID-19.
An early warning system that has sewer samples from campus buildings being tested every two days prompted the drills to help students understand what would happen in the event of a positive test. The testing has been in place for a couple of weeks and as of Friday, no SU student has tested positive for coronavirus. The university welcomed seniors back Friday as part of its gradual process to bring students back to campus.
The university has spent $500,000 on the wastewater testing system, spokesman Amanda O'Rourke said.
But if a positive case is detected in any of the buildings on campus, as many as 150 students would need to be quarantined immediately and so drills have taken place to make the process go as smoothly as possible, said Susan Lantz, vice president for Student Life. A video will be made available to students in about one week.
"Sometimes you don't know how it's going to go until you do it so we've done two drills so far," said Lantz. "We hope it will make students feel safe and calm" to know the process beforehand.
The first step if a positive COVID-19 case is detected will be to alert campus residents by text message of a need to isolate themselves. The next day, testing will begin and could take as long as seven hours to complete, she said. Athletic trainers have been trained to do the testing and a COVID-19 hotline has been set up for parents.
"We've been very pleased with the student compliance" to the rules, Lantz said.
First-year students have been on campus for a couple of weeks, seniors are now returning and sophomores and juniors will be back in two weeks.
Tori Landon, of Dallas, was eager to return to campus for her senior year.
The communication major had her planned semester in Melbourne, Australia, cut short in March due to the pandemic after only five weeks and has been quarantined at home for the past several months.
"I thrive in this environment," said Landon of the on-campus, in-person instruction. "I want to see my friends and look at my teachers, no matter if it's behind the mask."
Several friends have chosen to study remotely but Landon said she hopes to be able to continue her studies on campus until November when the winter break begins early.
As she bid farewell to her father Friday after he helped her move into a campus apartment, Landon told him, "I love you, but I hope I don't see you for a while."
Jacob Butzler wasn't as keen to return to the school.
"If I wasn't a senior I wouldn't have wanted to come back," the accountant major from Jersey Shore said.
Butzler said he feels restricted by the campus rules that limit socialization, including only one guest per roommate to an apartment.
"I don't want to be a pessimist, but it's going to be different," he said of his final year college experience.
Lantz said most of the nearly 1,800 students who will be on campus are eager to be there while 312 students have opted to study remotely.
To keep on-campus students motivated amid the pandemic, the university is looking for ways to engage them.
"So much time has been spent figuring out what students can't do that we wanted to give them something they can do," said Lantz of the added amenities such as a sandy volleyball court, a disc golf course, weekly outdoor movies and a fire pit that will be available to them.
The gymnasium is also open for students to work out by appointment. O'Rourke said the facility will be mostly exclusively available to students.
"I can't wait to get to the gym," said Landon.