University offers incentivized testing after spring break


Gracie Terrall, News Editor (She/Her)

With spring break approaching and COVID-19 just as prominent this March as it was last, South Dakota State University hosts another mass testing event, but this time with a reward.

Students who test at the Brookings campus test center between March 15-19 will receive a $5 coupon for any campus-related retail or dining locations. Those coupons will expire April 30, 2021.

They will also be entered for a chance to be one of ten students to win a $100 University Bookstore voucher.

Typically, the campus test center sees 200-300 students per week. During a similar testing event last semester called Test Before Turkey, over 1,000 students tested, Vice President of Student Affairs Michaela Willis said. She hopes the incentive with this event will increase testing.

“After students returned from classes this spring, testing was a lot lower than we hoped it would be,” Willis said. “We really wanted to see students having greater care for their campus community by getting tested.”

University officials have recommended students test before and after spring break.

Although the South Dakota Board of Regents voted to maintain spring break, university officials, and the CDC, advise students not to travel to popular spring break destinations this year.

“We hope that, if students do decide to travel, they travel home and remain relatively safe and try not to expose themselves to a lot of other people,” Willis said. “We hope that they just take a break from their academic experience and recharge.”

Laura Dirks, SDSU’s public health specialist, stressed that an increase in testing would cause an increase in positive cases. But, the university will be monitoring percent positivities to determine severity.

If students do plan on traveling over break, the administration recommends students limit interactions to only the people they are traveling with and to follow COVID-19 guidelines.

“Face coverings are required on all public transportation,” Dirks said. “Students are going to be required to wear their face coverings in the airports and bus stations and on planes.”

Dirks also wants to remind students who plan on traveling internationally that the United States requires a negative test before entering the country.

Sophomore interior design major Chloé Speas has chosen to remain at home in Rapid City rather than travel to a highly-populated area. Her decision to not travel, other than the ride home, was influenced by the pandemic.

“I’m definitely not gonna go hang out in any large groups or anything,” Speas said. “I would have liked to go on a trip, but I don’t think that’s the best decision right now.”

According to Dirks, it is unlikely that SDSU will move back online after the break this year.

“We didn’t have any of that infrastructure mitigation that we have now on campus,” she said. “We have a lot more knowledge about the virus, as well as how things transmit now.”

But, Willis said the university is prepared if cases nationwide and in Brookings start to spike. Moving back online will be determined by the color severity level SDSU has in place and the number of positives in the community.

“We have protocols in place for moving between the different risk color levels, from green all the way to red,” Willis said.

Speas said she was planning on social distancing more diligently for the first few weeks back from spring break in order to “be a little bit safer” than normal.

To continue hybrid classes and remain on campus, the university has said they will continue adhering to COVID-19 guidelines and testing students.

“Our hope is that when students return from spring break, they’ll go and get tested to show their care for our campus and fellow students so we can get to an in-person commencement in May,” Willis said.