Colorado State University Pueblo has opened a site that will vastly increase its COVID-19 testing capabilities.
The new testing center, according to Chief Strategy Officer and COVID-19 coordinator Donna Souder Hodge, will conduct between 800 and 1,000 tests per week and is located in the Walking Stick clubhouse on the CSU-Pueblo campus.
For context, the university tested about 1,000 students throughout the fall semester.
“Being able to scale (testing) up — and we see more opportunities on the horizon — is incredibly important,” Souder Hodge said.
“We know right now that until the vaccine hits 70 percent of our population that the fastest and easiest way for us to protect our campus community is to offer regular testing, to isolate positive cases and to quarantine potentially exposed folks as quickly as possible.”
CSU Pueblo, Souder Hodge said, will require all students and staff returning to campus this semester to take a COVID-19 test at least once per week.
“Best practices actually suggest that we might test as often as 2-3 times per week, anyone who’s regularly on campus,” Souder Hodge said.
“So we’re going to take sort of a middle road right now and do a required once-a-week testing of every person who’s living, learning or working in-person on campus this spring.”
The testing center was built using reserve funds made available to CSU Pueblo by the Colorado State University System. It is being staffed with six medical professionals through a contracted partnership with a company called Spartan Medical, which has erected similar testing sites across the country.
“They really brought a lot of expertise and knowledge in terms of protocols and testing and were able to give us really good advice and collaborate with us and (the Pueblo Department of Public Health and Environment) to stand up this new testing site,” Souder Hodge said.
The site will operate from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, with the final tests of each day taking place at 4 p.m.
Another major component of the university’s new capabilities is a digital tool that will allow students and staff to schedule appointments, view test results, set reminders and complete daily health checks.
The digital tool is currently in the pilot phase, and Souder Hodge said the university aims to go live with it by the time the spring semester begins.
“Our classes start back Jan. 18, and the vast majority will be completely online,” Souder Hodge said.
“Our plan for the start of the semester is that the first two weeks would be completely virtual. Most of our employees will continue to work remote as long as we’re at (Level Orange or Level Red) in Pueblo County (on the Colorado COVID-19 dial), and after Feb. 1 we’ll be really reassessing.
“So Jan. 18 is really where we hope our go-live date is, but Feb. 1, when we know more folks will be coming to campus, is a really important date for us.”
Because testing at least once per week will be a university-wide requirement, students and staff who refuse testing, Souder Hodge said, will be subject to the school’s normal disciplinary procedures when conduct issues arise.
“Every organization deals with people who don’t want to do things. We’re dealing with this right now in the community with folks who don’t want to wear a mask or are ignoring social distancing rules or whatever it may be,” Souder Hodge said.
“But for us, we have a pretty amazing culture here, we believe in that pack mentality that the things that we do, we do together, and we do for each other. That’s something that’s special about CSU Pueblo and something that’s special, in my mind about Pueblo — our people want to be part of the solution.”
Souder Hodge said ramping up testing is especially important right now, even as the emergence of COVID-19 vaccines provides “a light at the end of the tunnel.”
“This is a moment — our governor has said this and we hear this from public health — to stay vigilant, keep your processes up, anything that you can do to continue to protect your people,” Souder Hodge said.
“We want to not increase positive cases, we don’t want to strain our hospital system, we want all of those resources available to help with the vaccine, not deal with COVID cases that, in theory, we could avoid.”
Chieftain reporter Zach Hillstrom can be reached at email@example.com or twitter.com/ZachHillstrom.
Spartan Medical Inc. Point of Contact: Eric Jania, Director of COVID-19 Testing Solutions at 201-230-1410 or firstname.lastname@example.org