Mercer’s Mandatory Surveillance Testing

On the Central Georgia campus of Mercer University in Macon, big red stickers are on the doors telling students where they can and cannot enter a building, or where they can walk down the stairs.  

The one-way traffic designations are a part of Mercer’s COVID-19 plan.  But, maybe the most important part of the plan is the on-campus surveillance testing for the coronavirus.

Surveillance testing means students, faculty, and staff are randomly selected for coronavirus screening.  

“We wanted to make sure that we were preventing any outbreaks on campus so we can stay open, and we can have in-person classes,” Mercer Vice Provost Kelly Reffitt said.  

She said that the system worked well during the fall, for a while.  

“What we saw was in the beginning of the semester, we had a much higher percentage of participation among students,” Reffitt said. 

Since Mercer University strengthened its surveillance testing protocols for this semester, it has been able to encourage more students to get tested for the coronavirus. (Faith Montgomery)

However, there was no penalty for not being tested.  

“Once students realized it was optional and they didn’t have to go and nothing would happen to them if they didn’t go, they just opted out,” Reffitt said.  

For the spring semester, things have changed.  Once notified, students have one week to complete their test.  

“If that doesn’t happen, and we send several reminders during the week, then students can’t go to class,” she said.  

Students could find that they can’t register for classes for Fall 2021 since the Provost’s office will also place a hold on students’ accounts that fail to show up for testing.  

Since the required surveillance testing began, coronavirus tests on campus have approximately doubled, and fewer are coming back positive.  That’s a sign that outbreaks are being stopped.  

When students are allowed to be vaccinated by the state, they will be able to have it done on Mercer’s campus since the Macon campus has been approved as a vaccination site.