In an email to the College yesterday, Executive Director of Health and Counseling Sandra Hayes announced that students could receive a maximum of three Covid-19 antigen kits (with two tests per kit) for free starting Monday, October 2. This initiative will eliminate economic barriers students may face in accessing tests. The tests are available to students through a vending machine located on the first floor of David Saul Smith Union.
While last year, students were provided four free antigen tests at no cost, this fall, students were required to pay if they wanted to test themselves.
Hayes noted in her email that the free testing kits will help students to be aware of their Covid status and use that information to protect themselves and others.
“Making these tests available to all students, free of charge, is intended to remove any barriers for students who wish to test and as a precautionary measure considering the uptick in Covid-19 cases statewide as reported by the Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention,” Hayes wrote in her email.
While the College is unable to monitor cases, Hayes said she noticed a marked increase in Covid-positive students coming through the health center last week. She recognized, however, that students’ impressions of case numbers may be elevated due to the absences observed around them.
“I think because of the way Covid is transmitted, you’re going to see it in clusters.… So people’s perceptions might be, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s a third [of campus] because a third of my people are not here.’ But in reality, we’re not seeing those kinds of numbers at all,” Hayes said in an interview with the Orient.
Executive Director of Dining Services Ryan Miller echoed Hayes, writing in an email to the Orient that an increase in illness on campus around this time of year is typical. According to Miller, Dining Services has filled anywhere from 5 to 30 to-go container requests for sick students per meal as of this week. There has also been an elevated demand for Moulton Express and Fast Track, meal options that allow students to take food to go. Additionally, he noted that dining staff absences due to illness have been on the rise but with minimal effect on regular operations.
As cold and flu season wears on, the College is coming up with ways to protect students from all common respiratory illnesses. Hayes emphasized that along with free flu shots for students, faculty and staff, the College has pre-ordered Covid booster shots, adding to the numerous resources available to keep students healthy and safe.
“I think we’re in a great place,” Hayes said. “I think Bowdoin’s response is appropriate. I think we’re able to move on, but I think we’re able to quickly change direction should we need to.”