By Sean Leonard
The College has partnered with Bergen New Bridge Medical Center to provide mandatory weekly Covid-19 testing for students living on campus, students who come to campus and any other students who wish to register online.
Students are tested on weekdays only in Decker Social Space. Appointments can be made through the registration portal, but walk-ins are accepted.
Most students moved in the weekend before classes started. But due to the snowstorm which canceled all on-campus activities and testing for Feb. 1 and 2, the testing center was backed up and understaffed for Wednesday. Students had varying experiences to share after being tested.
Junior finance major Bobby Guerra said there were at least five workers administering the tests when he was tested, but senior Hannah Morgan said only two workers were administering tests when she went on Feb. 3. Morgan is a biomedical engineering major who waited about an hour to get tested, while other students waited closer to two hours later in the day.
“We got to get tested anyway, so no matter what the wait is, it doesn’t matter,” Morgan said. “But it was long, and I do feel bad for the people in there working hard… I guess they didn’t anticipate the volume.”
The long wait times are likely not a constant theme for the rest of the semester, but the walk-ins appeared to overload their facilities.
Guerra had a much more positive experience with the rapid testing. Guerra is living off campus this semester, but he works as an orientation leader. He needed to get tested before an event during the weekend of Jan. 30. Guerra said he was surprised at how quickly the process was after hearing about how long the lines were.
Guerra broke down his experience, describing his testing process to be different than most students once he entered the sectioned off gates for students waiting to be tested in Decker Hall.
“It was quick, it was efficient, and it just went smoothly. I was in and out in literally five minutes,” Guerra said.
Guerra said he received his results by creating an online account through Bergen New Bridge Medical Center, and he viewed his negative result a few days later through their online portal.“They pointed me over to the testing site; there were like five or six different employees working there. Then I just sat down, they put my head back and took a quick swab in both noses and that was it,” Guerra said. “I was surprised by how quick it was. I was expecting it to be a lot longer.”
A constant in the Covid testing process is recounting the discomfort in the nasal swab.
“I think my guy was a little bit more rough than when my girlfriend went two days before. She was like, ‘Oh, the woman was really gentle.’ The guy stuck it up my nose and was jamming it in there. I was like, ‘take it easy,’ it was my first time getting it done too so I didn’t really know what to expect,” he said.
Like Guerra, junior computer science major PoeAn Lu did not know that he had to create an external account to receive his results.
“I waited for almost two days before I realized that they wouldn't send me the results in an email,” Lu said. “I had to email the TCNJ Student Health people to ask how I could see my results. They told me that I had to sign up in another portal to see my results.”
Lu has been commuting to his three flex classes on campus this semester. He expects to get tested twice a week because it is required for the music class he is taking. Lu was first tested on Jan. 26 and said the lines were longer than he expected.
“Everyone was good about social distancing and all, but there were still a good amount of people in the room at the same time,” Lu said. “The time I spent waiting in line also felt long, but maybe that was just me being impatient. But once I got to the front of the line, things went pretty smoothly.”
These tests are designed to offer same-day results. However, according to a recent CDC study, antigen test sensitivity and specificity for asymptomatic screening were 41.2% and 98.4%, respectively. Because of the relatively low accuracy, it is recommended that asymptomatic positive antigen cases should be followed up with a RT-PCR test, and false negative antigen tests are possible with so many students being tested.
For every five confirmed cases of Covid-19, one patient receives a negative rapid antigen test result, according to the same study. Thus, it is important to continue following guidelines according to Roscoe’s Pledge.
Symptomatic students are urged not to visit the rapid testing center, but instead call Student Health Services at 609-771-2889.