Bob Jones University athletic and health faculty members are joining forces to encourage intramural student-athletes to get tested for COVID-19.
In order to maintain the de-escalation of COVID-19 protocols announced in chapel March 1, it is vital that a certain percentage of students participate in surveillance testing each week. Intramural teams will continue to be tested along with the cast of A Tale of Two Cities: The Musical. In addition, at least 120 other students need to volunteer for surveillance testing.
Individual residence halls and a sampling of day students will each be contacted a week in advance asking for participation in the testing. If students indicate they are willing, they will receive an email with a link to download an app, which will give them test results, usually within 15 minutes. It will also include the times and location for testing. There is no requirement for isolation unless someone tests positive.
Michelle Benson, the director of Student Health Services, said the testing requirement exists to keep students safe. “We want to make sure . . . that there isn’t someone [on a team] that has COVID,” Benson said. “That would be a very high-risk environment for spreading.”
“We want everyone to be able to play, represent their society and have a wonderful sports season in a safe environment,” she said. “[Testing] seemed to be the safest, most prudent way to be able to make that move forward.”
Caleb Woo, a graduate assistant in the School of Health Professions, administers on-campus COVID-19 testing. Each weekday, Woo guides students through the process of taking a self-administered nasal swab test in the Grace Haight Building.
“It just makes us more comfortable with allowing people to play, while also reassuring the campus community and the greater Greenville community that we’re doing the best we can to make sure we keep our students, faculty and staff healthy,” Woo said.
Mike LeViere, the director of intramural sports, hopes to begin the intramural basketball season around March 29. He believes the benefits of intramural sports are great enough to justify the extra effort needed to have them during the pandemic. In addition to allowing students to compete and enjoy themselves, intramurals also help them build relationships and grow their leadership skills.
“Intramurals provide opportunities to develop existing relationships and create new relationships with fellow students,” LeViere said. “[They] provide leadership opportunities for those who choose to coach a team or otherwise develop as a leader within their sport setting.”
Student Health Services and the Division of Health Science determined that 75% of intramural athletes need to be tested before the season can begin safely.
Jessie-Marie Heath, LeViere’s assistant, said they were not able to reach this percentage on time for volleyball, forcing them to postpone the season by two weeks. She hopes students will decide to volunteer for testing more quickly before basketball because of the delay in the volleyball season.
“There was a little bit of slow response by the students,” Benson said, speaking of the beginning of the volleyball season. “Hopefully for the basketball season, there will be a bit of a quicker response so that it can start a little sooner.”
Fear and discomfort may have dissuaded some athletes from getting tested for coronavirus. “Some people were scared, or they really just didn’t want to do it,” Heath said.
Woo believes more work needs to be done to reassure students about the on-campus tests.
“I have a ton of students come in, and you can tell they are very anxious,” Woo said. “I have to dispel the horror stories. We’re not swabbing your brain. It tickles and makes you sneeze…but we’re not trying to invade your head.”
According to Woo, communication difficulties also contributed to the delay. Some students told Woo the messages sent through IMLeagues did not reach players on time. In the future, Woo hopes to communicate the testing dates directly through students’ university emails to avoid this delay.
Additionally, Woo said he thinks advertising the on-campus testing more and further in advance would increase the response rate among intramural athletes.
Woo also believes some students may not have been able to fit a COVID-19 test into their busy schedules. Some students never showed up for their appointments to be tested, making it more difficult to reach the necessary percentage of tests.
Woo believes this data will help the campus return to normalcy. “We started singing in chapel,” he said. “I was actually really comfortable with that because I’ve seen from the cast [of the musical] . . . that we never saw a spread [from singing].”
According to Benson, society presidents and athletic directors have a large role to play in reminding athletes to get tested. Students need to diligently check their email to see when testing for the basketball season begins.
Normally, intramural basketball happens before intramural volleyball, but this year the orders of the seasons were switched. Benson said this change will allow societies to play in the Bob Jones Academy gym. COVID-19 also influenced the decision.
“Basketball is a more high-risk contact sport because you’re in each other’s face,” Benson said. “We were hoping that by the time basketball season began, our [coronavirus case] numbers would continue to drop.” She said the numbers on campus have dropped, making it a safer environment for basketball.