Return Ready COVID-19 testing brings relief to colleges

Four college students talk outside of a building.

With the federal government’s COVID-19 vaccine mandates for organizations with more than 100 employees, many states, cities and schools have followed suit. But with many still unvaccinated, and policies varying from location to location, testing remains essential to controlling the COVID-19 pandemic at colleges and universities.

At Florida Southern College, an emphasis on testing has allowed students and faculty to return safely and happily in person to their Lakeland, Florida campus.

“This fall compared to last fall is just wildly different,” says Dr. Richard Purcell, a religion professor at FSC. “It’s not just that we're all here, but we're actually gathering outside of the classroom, whether it's for worship or engaged learning experiences or student-led clubs and groups.”

Prior to coming to campus this fall, students submitted proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test, says FSC Vice President for Student Life Susan Freeman, Ph.D. The school also launched a campaign to encourage more individuals to get vaccinated.

“By the time the delta variant became such an overwhelming factor, we had already started incentivizing vaccines,” she says.

On campus today, random testing of unvaccinated students provides results within 15 minutes. Anyone on campus who is experiencing symptoms can also get tested, and the college does contact tracing whenever a positive test occurs.

Return Ready, a COVID-19 testing solution

To implement their testing policy, FSC turned to Return Ready™, a customizable COVID-19 testing solution introduced by CVS Health® in 2020 to support workplace and university reopening strategies. The program offers testing solutions that follow clinical protocols, provides digital scheduling tools and can offer detailed reporting. To date, it has helped over 100 organizations responsibly return to their workplace or campus.

“Over this time period, we’ve seen access to reliable testing improve, with new testing modalities being authorized, and the introduction and widespread distribution of COVID-19 vaccines,” says James Margiotta, Senior Vice President of CVS Health’s Return Ready program. “These milestones all had an impact on how organizations approached their return to worksite or return to campus strategies and required us to stay on top of the latest science and be flexible to accommodate new requests and services."

At FSC, testing has provided up-to-date information on COVID-19 cases and exposures that has helped the college return to in-person learning.

“The combination of policies, contact tracing, testing and encouraging vaccinations really seems to be working for us,” Purcell says. “And I think we're just all really overjoyed to see that.“