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Creating a welcoming environment

As a marketing major, Joanne Munshower never envisioned her student job in 2020 would be so clinical. Yet for Kyle Prete, a biology major in a pre-medical school track, this area of focus makes perfect sense.

Both Prete and Munshower have used their respective skills in a critical way this fall, helping Ohio State’s students complete their weekly COVID-19 testing.

They are two of about 80 Student Testing Assistants who work at the Jesse Owens Recreation Center North testing site, where hundreds are tested every hour, about 4,500 in a single day.

“One of the most important parts of the position is to be a warm and welcoming face, making sure students feel comfortable because it’s such a medical thing they’re doing,” said Munshower, a junior. “At the beginning, there was a lot of apprehension and curiosity, but now it’s become a part of their life. Everyone has a good attitude and they’re extremely patient.”

Testing assistants essentially help students through the testing process, which includes filling out a quick online questionnaire and completing the saliva test. Students get their results two to three days later.

Prete, a senior due to graduate in December, said having students work at the sites seems to help those coming in for testing.

“It’s an experience people are going through together, the shared trauma of this pandemic,” Prete said. “When you can share it with a peer, it definitely helps. I’ve had a lot of great conversations with students, talking about the university response, what’s going on and generally getting to know each student. That does make it a little easier for them.”

Ohio State’s process calls for weekly testing of all students living on campus, in residence halls or university-managed housing, along with regular testing of samples of students who live off campus.  Off-campus students are notified via their university email account when they have been selected for the surveillance testing.

“It’s nice to have access to all this information,” Munshower said. “You’re not wondering what’s the positivity rate and how many people are being tested. There’s a dashboard for all this. So it does bring me peace of mind knowing they are keeping track and trying to stay on top of it.”

Munshower, in fact, recently had to quarantine for 14 days. She has since tested negative, and her quarantine followed Ohio State’s contact tracing procedures.

On-campus students who are isolated – for 10 days following a positive test – or quarantined – for 14 days after contact tracing shows they have been exposed to a person who tested positive – are moved into an individual room for the required time frame.  

Prete said Ohio State’s testing displays the type of proactive attitude toward fighting the pandemic he’s tried to maintain since the outbreak.

“I firmly believe in the science behind what we’re doing, and I want to be part of a community that looks out for each other in the most drastic of situations,” Prete said. “I think 2020 has been very revealing in a lot of ways. It’s a lesson that we’re all in this together, and if we do our small part and focus on the little things, bigger things become easier to handle.”

Published: September 25, 2020

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