Returning students tested, COVID-19 positive rates ‘very low’

More than 2,000 returning undergraduate students and employees at Campbell University have been tested for COVID-19 upon their return from winter break, and through Tuesday, the percentage of positive tests was below 1 percent, according to University officials. 

The mass testing event — held Jan. 10-14 on the second floor of the Oscar N. Harris Student Union — was the main component of Operation Safe Return, the University’s program to ensure a safe campus as COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the state. 

Of the first 1,800-plus students and staff tested (Wednesdays results are pending), 16 cases came back positive.

“The process was incredibly smooth with check-in and screening stations,” said Dr. Nicholas Pennings, chair of family medicine for the med school and director of the Campbell University Health Center. “Most of the positive results were in student who had no symptoms or just minor symptoms they didn’t think were related to COVID-19. That is the real value in doing this. Those students potentially would have continued to be in contact with others and spread the virus.  Since this virus spreads so fast, the multiplying effect is huge, where 16 positives can turn into several hundred positive results in a matter of weeks.

“Identifying and isolating students before they came on campus provides the best chance for a safe start for our students, faculty and staff.”

Students who tested positive met with residence hall staff to arrange on-campus housing where they could remain in isolation. All students returning to Campbell are required to test before their student ID cards are activated for the spring semester. 

Kellie Nothstine, dean of campus life and Title IX coordinator, said the students’ cooperation has been welcomed by the Campbell staff. 

“Their willingness to test when returning to class and our campus shows a continued commitment to prioritize the health and safety of others in their community,” she said. “Testing is a simple measure that we can each take to show others at Campbell that we continue to care.”