Belhaven University Builds Testing Center to Track COVID-19 on Campus
Belhaven University has constructed its own COVID-19 testing center to track asymptomatic students, faculty, and staff. Professors in the chemistry and biology departments have expanded their roles to coordinate, test, and conduct lab work for thousands of people every week.
“Our testing center will help us get the best out of a tough situation, and the future is already looking incredibly bright,” said Belhaven University President Dr. Roger Parrott. “Even during this time of COVID-19, we reached our highest enrollment in history. Higher education is going to change dramatically after COVID-19, and Belhaven is positioned to be on the frontline of innovation.”
Many colleges and universities are not testing students and are more likely to close their on-campus classes and activities. Research from Dr. Deborah Birx, former White House Coronavirus Coordinator, showed that colleges who did not conduct asymptomatic testing showed a 15% or greater infection rate. Those who conducted asymptomatic testing had less than 1% infection rate.
Belhaven is the only university in Mississippi to build a dedicated COVID-19 testing center. “We are a complete asymptomatic surveillance testing facility,” said Dr. Shelley Smith, assistant to the president for coronavirus management and assistant chemistry professor. Every day, hundreds of students, faculty and staff are tested using saliva samples. Those samples are tested in the University lab and the results are produced within hours.
“This testing center is important to Belhaven University because our professors want to teach classes on campus, our students want to attend classes in person, and our staff want to be on campus working,” said Smith. “To make that happen, we need to test everyone on campus and on a weekly basis to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”
Belhaven began building the testing center in November, and students said they are already seeing the benefits of having it on campus. “It allows us to be able to actually go to on campus classes without having to resort to online learning,” said Clare Bishop, who is a student worker at the testing center.
Bishop was recently accepted into the University of Mississippi Medical Center School of Medicine and believes the testing center is offering her early experience for her future career field. “I want to become a doctor and this experience has been great for me. It’s giving me an advantage in a world that I otherwise wouldn’t have experience in at this point,” Bishop expressed.