Abrons Student Health Center joined SGA to discuss COVID-19


Lillianne Hogsten

Inside Depaolo Hall, where the Abrons Student Health Center is located.

Veronica Wernicke, News Editor

On Sept. 9 the Student Government Association (SGA) held its weekly meeting and the coronavirus (COVID-19) was a prominent topic. In guest attendance was Katrin Wesner, Interim Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and Sara Nimmo, Interim Director of the Abrons Student Health Center. 

After introductions from both Wesner and Nimmo,  senate members were given the opportunity to ask both women questions. Most of the questions pertained to COVID-19 operations on UNC Wilmington’s (UNCW) campus.

“The thing that is a little bit different about COVID is that it is very unpredictable and things are changing at a rapid pace,” said Wesner. “It is important for us to stay nimble and up to date. And I think for the campus community, that is a little bit difficult, right? We want to know sort of the plan and have a plan and stick to a plan and stay with that and that is what feels comfortable for us. This is challenging for all of us to be nimble and a little bit more flexible than usual.”

She also mentioned that SGA members should be the role models to help other students follow the three W’s — wear face-coverings, wait six feet apart and wash your hands frequently. 

Wesner then went on to discuss and break down UNCW’s data dashboard, which houses the university’s COVID-19 numbers. 

“It shows you the data for the previous day, so today you will see information as of midnight yesterday, and you can keep track of our daily positive cases,” said Wesner. “If you want to know active cases, it is the people in the last 14 days, so you can sort of count the last 14 bars. But we are going to sum that up for people. Our cumulative positive cases include not only the tests that were done at the health center, but also tests that are reported to us through the coronavirus@UNCW.edu email address.” 

COVID-19 tests are broken down into three categories, antibody, molecular and antigen.  

Reasons for administering the test are also listed on the data dashboard and are separated into three categories; “Symptomatic/Contact Tracing,” “Surveillance: Athletics-related” and “Surveillance: Non-Athletics Related.”

“Antibody is to see if somebody was exposed in the past, molecular is that PCR tests that we take and we send off to a reference lab and results come back within one to two days,” said Wesner. “On average, an antigen is that quick rapid test that we do within 15 to 30 minutes for you.”

Since sports have not started, there is no data for tests being administered for “Surveillance: Athletics-related” reasons. However, once sports start practicing the Student Health Center will begin testing 25% of sports teams every other week and every month. Once competitions start, teams will need to be tested three days prior.

“The Surveillance Non-Athletics related would be, for example, somebody whose job requires them to get tested, or who might be traveling and the state might say, you either have to show that you had a negative test in the last three days, or else you have to quarantine for two weeks when you get here,” said Wesner. 

In response to one senator asking about adding a more clear or separate piece about active cases to the dashboard, Wesner said they are planning on adding a summary of those numbers, but meanwhile, people can count the numbers of the last 14 day bars on the “daily positive cases” box. 

Regarding a question concerning how many students could take a test in the Non-Disability Resource Testing Center, Wesner said with social distanced guidelines in place and advanced scheduling, that number is typically six or seven. 

A question about contact tracing also came up in the discussion and the matter of who conducts them. 

“The county actually supplemented the health center staff by placing two contact tracers right in Depalo hall with health center staff, but the agreement had been from the get-go, that the county and the health center would work collaboratively,” said Wesner. “So if everything was going well, the health center would do the majority of the contact tracing for those students who were tested at the health center, the county would do that for the folks that were tested off-campus. And we could, depending on capacity help each other. They realized that our capacity and our numbers have been growing so they were able to put two contact tracers embedded within the health center.”

The recent announcement of double occupancy dorms becoming single occupancy on campus was also brought up. 

“That was a conversation that was held between a lot of different people, including members of the Cabinet, Housing and Residence Life, but really as we noticed that the numbers were starting to increase, you know, the county numbers were going down and the UNCW numbers were going up,” said Wesner. “So we are becoming a good chunk of the county numbers. We also know that where the numbers between 18 to 24 have started to rise in the county and that’s probably largely because of us. Really a sort of decision to see what we can do to decrease those numbers, even more, was to look at could we work to de-densify campus as a sort of a step in the right direction.”

Wesner also stated that students moving to new buildings will not be tested prior to their arrival, since wide-scale testing is not recommended by the county or the state. 

“I think what we are working towards is, you know, to see where this gets us, and then really trying to see what else can happen,” said Wesner. “The Health Department was very pleased with our plan for a good faith effort to make some progress and we will see how that goes. There are enough people who want the semester to stay in person because it is what many students want. And we would love to have a successful semester and make it all the way to Thanksgiving. So we are going to give that a shot. But we are definitely going to respond to whatever the needs are at the moment.”

SGA meets every Tuesday from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. and more information about how to attend their meetings can be found on their Instagram page.