The University of Tulsa has been offering on-campus COVID-19 testing since the beginning of the school year. Students have been getting emails from the Alexander Health Center and have been required to go get tested with IMMY Labs; however, due to reduced funding in the most recent stimulus package, IMMY Labs had to reduce the number of free testing sites they offer. They now only operate at their corporate center in Norman, OK.
For the second semester the University of Tulsa will instead be partnering with Certigen. Certigen Laboratory is located in Tulsa on 9309 South Toledo Ave. Certigen Laboratory will be here for a couple months, and will either stay with us or we will find a new laboratory to partner with. When students take this test, the results will get back in 24-48 hours, which is about the same waiting period as students expected with IMMY Labs testing.
Student experiences with COVID-19 testing will be a bit different with Certigen. With IMMY Labs, students were initially able to get drive-thru testing at the Reynolds Center parking lot, where IMMY Labs staff would administer the nose swab test through the car window. Later, due to weather conditions, students instead had to go inside of Lorton Performance Center to have these nose swab tests administered.
With Certigen, students pick up self-administered test kits at the Mcfarlin Library. Additionally, while IMMY Lab tests were funded by the state, students will have to add insurance information to receive Certigen tests. While TU has committed to paying any costs not covered by insurance for the tests the university requires students to take when moving back to campus, it is unclear how accessible testing will be after this first wave of testing.
Despite reduced stimulus funding to cities, COVID-19 cases in Tulsa continue to rise each and every day. The Oklahoma Health Department recorded 1,837 new cases, and seven more deaths in the state. Oklahoma is leading the nation on test positivity. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Oklahoma’s confirmed cases are 358,653, with 3,001 COVID-19 related deaths.
Despite the rising number of cases, the city and state are moving toward increased mitigation efforts through vaccine distribution. The Tulsa Health Department has added 2,714 new appointments for the vaccine.
Tulsa Public Schools have also struggled to navigate the complexities of learning during COVID-19. The TPS board recently voted to push the return to in-person classes from January to March 22. Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt has since addressed the Board of Education, urging them to resume in-person learning.
In addition to extending virtual learning, the Board also extended last semester’s deadline to Feb. 5. This allows students to make up all the assignments they have missed until Feb. 5. Extending this deadline allows students to get additional support from parents and teachers and have more time to raise their grades that might have been impacted by struggles to adjust to virtual learning or increased stress during the pandemic. In these unprecedented times, TPS has attempted to balance safety with cultivating a learning environment for kids.
Similarly, TU has maintained several safety measures on campus. In addition to requiring students to quarantine for two weeks before resuming in-person classes, classrooms still enforce social distancing and mask policies. As vaccines become more widely available and the country starts the long process of distributing doses, TPS and TU both remind us of the importance of staying vigilant. Inside and outside of the classroom, remember to wear a mask and wash your hands.