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College campuses working to keep coronavirus at bay turn to tech

Technology on college campuses fight against COVID19

Nationwide college campuses are working to keep their classrooms open during the coronavirus pandemic. Many colleges are relying on technology to help them get the job done.

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Many colleges and universities nationwide are working around the clock to keep their campuses open during the coronavirus pandemic, as some rely on developments in technology to help keep students and staff COVID-free.

Alabama State University, with a student body of more than 5,000, has boasted no reported coronavirus cases on campus.

The university’s president, Quinton Ross Jr., said it’s thanks to new technology, increased protocols and rapid testing available to all students, staff, and faculty, with help from a variety of machines.

A social distancing marker on the campus of Alabama State University. (Fox News/Jayla Whitfield)

“From the very beginning, we tested all of our faculty, staff and the student body prior to their return to campus, that was number one,” Ross said.

He added that the protocols on campus have become second nature, but the technology has provided an extra layer of protection.

“The social distancing on campus, making sure that our classrooms are socially distanced, sneeze guards in various offices and areas – those are all things we put in place prior to receiving our screening machines,” Ross said.

The university has been using a combination of tests and technology on campus. Senior Dax Craig said, “it’s reassuring that the university cares about their student body.”

A social-distancing machine monitors if students are too close together.

A social-distancing machine monitors if students are too close together. (Fox News/Jayla Whitfield)

One of the machines lights up when people are too close to each other. “There’s a screen right there that lets you know if you’re too close to somebody... it gets red, whereas if you’re evenly spaced out, it’s green,” Craig said.

Another machine scans students’ vital signs and temperatures before they enter classrooms.

One machine checks students' vitals and temperature before entering classrooms.

One machine checks students' vitals and temperature before entering classrooms. (Fox News/Jayla Whitfield)

Amber Schmidtke, a public-health microbiologist who follows the trends of COVID-19 cases in schools in Georgia, said she’s bracing for a surge.

“For every dollar we spend on prevention, that’s that much money saved on costs and other things that would be impacted if a school had to shut down,” Schmidtke said.

She added that multiple schools have been leading the way with testing and screening of students.

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Among the initiatives: “An app that has student self-testing. Schools are developing their own in-house testing to be able to respond to cases. But also, surveillance testing to better understand what’s going on, which is helpful for catching people even when they’re asymptomatic.”

Yet, dozens of universities across the country have been closing because of a rise in COVID cases on their campuses.

“It’s a little bit risky to send everybody home if you know that you have shouldering an outbreak taking place among your student population and then sending them home to family members that may be more vulnerable,” Schmidtke said.

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Alabama State University officials said that’s why testing on campus has been crucial.

Students at Alabama State University waiting on their rapid COVID-19 test results.

Students at Alabama State University waiting on their rapid COVID-19 test results. (Fox News/Jayla Whitfield)

Joyce Loyd-Davis, the director of health services at Alabama State, said the university has taken extreme measures to create a safe environment and maintain it.

“Ensuring that when the students and the staff and the faculty returned, that we had a negative baseline test. And, now that we got off the Labor Day holiday, we have continued those measures by testing everyone that went away or everyone that participated in large gatherings,” Loyd-Davis said.

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So far, Alabama State University reported it’s performed approximately 1,400 tests since the fall semester started in August.

An Alabama State University student receiving a COVID-19 test.

An Alabama State University student receiving a COVID-19 test. (Fox News/Jayla Whitfield )

One student receiving the test said, “It’s a bit uncomfortable but it’s worth it.”

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University officials said they used federal funding under the CARES Act to buy the screening machines that cost.about $20,000 apiece.

“I know our student body wants to enjoy their spring semester along with the remainder of their fall semester, so I know that they’re doing everything to ensure that we don’t go home,” Craig said.

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