Katelynn Singleton, news editor
As of Oct. 20, Berry College now requires unvaccinated students and employees to receive COVID-19 testing only once a week, with Berry waiving any fees. Unvaccinated members of the population have previously been required to get tested twice a week, at their personal expense.
Debbie Heida, chief of staff, said that from the beginning of the school year, Berry has continued to monitor the threat of COVID-19 both on and off-campus. Recent active cases on campus have been decreasing, with the current number, as of publication, at two active cases. Due to the decrease in numbers, Heida said that Berry feels comfortable decreasing the required amount of testing for unvaccinated people.
“We’ve continued to monitor the situation,” said Heida. “As situations improve, and they have improved, and it seemed that once a week seemed more reasonable at this point.”
Testing previously occurred in the Krannert Ballroom, but the location has changed to Krannert 108 and 109 from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Testing is available on Monday or Thursday, and unvaccinated students can choose either day to go. Heida said that several people who were getting tested had expressed discomfort at the public location of the testing. According to Heida, it was possible to change the location because of the requirement changes, as the need for large space is no longer required.
President Joseph R. Biden recently issued several Executive Orders that require employers to mandate vaccines or testing for all unvaccinated employees. Heida says that Berry is still trying to determine how the mandate affects student workers and employees, and will announce the effects as soon as possible. What Berry knows is that their current Berry guidelines are still in place.
“The regulations and guidelines for it [the Executive Order] have not been published yet,” Heida said. “[President Biden] made the announcement in September, we’re still waiting on OSHA guidelines for what that means for us.”
There is another order titled the Safer Federal Workforce (SFW), that requires anyone who uses federal contractors to mandate vaccinations. This would include Berry due to the multiple federal grants they receive, including the recent Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) grant, the Berry Reducing Assault and Violence through Education (BRAVE) grant and the new suicide prevention grant. Heida said that Berry is still trying to determine how SFW affects students and employees.
Berry will also now cover the cost of the COVID-19 tests. Heida said this is in anticipation of the federal orders, which would require Berry to cover the costs that students have had to cover themselves up until this point.
Although the testing requirements for students have changed, the NCAA testing requirements for student-athletes have not changed. Unvaccinated student-athletes who are in season will still be required to test 3 times a week.
Students should anticipate changes as Berry continues to monitor the situation.
“I know that it’s frustrating to people when things change, but that’s been the course of this over the last year and a half,” Heida said. “Things change and then we have to adapt.”