Campbell administers nearly 1,000 COVID-19 tests before holiday; positive rate low

Nearly 1,000 undergraduate Campbell students took advantage of free rapid COVID-19 testing this week as part of the University’s Operation Safe Return, and of the 935 students who took part, 15 of them — or 1.6 percent — received a positive test. 

Those students who tested positive are currently awaiting results of a second test, according to University officials. With a second positive, the student will be asked to quarantine for two weeks. It will be up to that student and their families if they remain at Campbell or if they can safely quarantine at home.

“As we end the semester and students return home, the University has taken the initiative to provide this COVID test with the hope that our students would not be a carrier of this virus into their families and communities,” said Vice President for Student Life Dr. Dennis Bazemore. “We are committed to the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff, and we are also concerned for the health and safety of our students’ families.” 

Students will not be returning to campus this fall after the Thanksgiving holiday, as all final exams will be performed remotely. In-person classes for the Spring 2021 semester are scheduled to begin on Jan. 13. 

Dr. Nicholas Pennings, chair and associate professor of family medicine at Campbell and the director of the University Health Center, said Operation Safe Return was born from the state encouraging all college students to be tested before leaving campus and providing free test kits.

Pennings said the 1.6-percent positive rate is better than the North Carolina average of 8 percent and the Harnett County average of 9 percent. He said all of the 15 students who tested positive this week showed little or no symptoms before the test. 

“While they were upset about coming up positive, they were also grateful that they knew and that they were not going to put family and friends at risk,” Pennings said. “I think of how many vulnerable individuals might have been exposed if they unknowingly went home carrying the COVID-19 virus.”

Pennings called the mass testing procedure a “challenging task,” but one that he’s happy the University was able to perform. 

“We provided an added layer of protection for our students and their families from this serious and potentially deadly infection,” he said. “I have to give tons of credit to my staff for taking on this challenge in an already challenging work environment. They worked long hours and weekends to make this happen.”

He also credited student volunteers from Campbell’s health science programs. 

“They have performed exceptionally well and expressed much gratitude for the opportunity to gain some clinical experience,” he said. “My wife even volunteered each day. This was a tremendous group effort. As the saying goes, ‘Many hands make work light.’”