Posted on: April 21, 2022 Posted by: Glacier Staff Comments: 0

Graphic by Sarah Schudt

By Nick Stulga, News Editor

On-campus COVID testing resumed April 18, after nearly a month in which unvaccinated students were on an honor system that did not require them to submit a negative test via Cleared4Class.

From the time the testing program began last fall in response to a mandate from Gov. J.B. Pritzker, students who refused to comply faced the possibility of stiff penalties for violating the Code of Student Conduct, “including but not limited to a warning, loss of privileges, college suspension, and college expulsion,” Kent Marshall, dean of students and compliance officer, said in September.

However, when federal funding ran out, Moraine no longer offered on-campus testing, and the college decided not to place the financial burden of getting tested off-campus on the students themselves.

According to The New York Times’ latest COVID case trend data, the estimated average of cases in Illinois has increased by 80 percent from two weeks ago, and as of now, there is no clear way to tell if students have been self-reporting to the contact tracers at Moraine if they have been feeling ill or experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.

When federal funding for testing ended, Moraine was forced to seek a different option, according to Margaret Lehner, vice president for Institutional Advancement. The college turned to a state-funded program called SHIELD, which will provide personnel for testing on campus and continue to be funded through June 30.

“We contacted SHIELD immediately,” Lehner said. “They came to our aid right away, but they needed a minimum amount of time to mobilize to supply our needs providing staff and supplies to three locations. All things considered, we were up and in operation quickly.”

According to Lehner, Moraine has been aware of SHIELD since testing first began, but South Chicago Labs, Moraine’s initial provider, got the upper hand by being a local business and offering personnel to aid in sample transportation.

I’m not sure where Illinois is getting the money, but the state is funding SHIELD.”

Richard Hendricks, Vice President of Administrative Services

“When South Chicago Labs had to pull out we then reached back out to SHIELD,” said Richard Hendricks, vice president of Administrative Services. “I’m not sure where Illinois is getting the money, but the state is funding SHIELD.”

MV resumed testing requirements on April 18 following Pritzker’s renewal of Executive Order 2021-20 requiring non-vaccinated college students to be tested weekly or remain off-campus.

“We sent flyers out today to four different areas to help students who may be having a problem,” said Lehner. “Aside from that, everything seems to be going smoothly.”

Lehner did admit that certain colleges in Illinois might struggle with testing without access to SHIELD.

“Any college that does not have SHIELD testing would be affected by the lack of funding unless they, like MV, were able to acquire SHIELD support,” Lehner said. “I do not know of any colleges in this position.”

Ongoing testing has some questioning if COVID is on its way from pandemic to endemic–becoming part of normal life. Kelli Nickols, department chair of nursing at Moraine, is hopeful that things are returning to pre-pandemic normalcy.

“I think we are almost there,” Nickols said. “The mortality rate is lower than what it was. I think we will have phases where things will slow down.”

I think we are almost there. The mortality rate is lower than what it was. I think we will have phases where things will slow down.”

Kelli Nickols, MV department chair for nursing

One of Nickols’ many responsibilities is to help organize nursing students’ clinical rotations. Students in the nursing program now have the option to wear masks while in the classroom but are required to wear them during labs. According to nurse practitioner Leslie Moyar, the previous protocol required students to wear a face shield and a face mask during labs.

As the nursing program and COVID protocols continue to change, Nickols thinks the college is doing a great job at combating COVID and believes a cautious approach is good for Moraine.

“I think the college has been doing very well,” Nickols said. “Not being too strict, but not easing immediately. I’m glad about the caution.”

Hendricks seems to share the same sentiment about Moraine’s stance on COVID.

“No I don’t think we’re getting out of this too quickly because we still encourage mask-wearing if that makes you comfortable, we still encourage social distancing, you know all those things,” Hendricks said. “We haven’t backed off and said, ‘We’re done with this, we’re back to the norm.’ No, we’re not there.”

With that being said, Nickols believes it’s time for a change in pace.

“At this point, it’s time to get back to normal,” Nickols said.

If you are in need of on-campus testing, you can register here. Further testing instructions can be found in the Student eNewsletter sent on April 14.