COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Howdy week activities kicked off this week as students made their way back to Aggieland.
While classes do not start until next Monday, the university is already prepping for its return to in-person learning.
While wearing a mask or being vaccinated is not a requirement at Texas A&M, getting tested for COVID-19 is.
The first window of the university's mandatory testing for COVID-19 began this week and concludes Friday, Sept. 10.
"I think it's just good to keep everyone safe since there are so many people here. It's probably for the best," Sarah Lind, a Senior at Texas A&M said.
"It is just within this window of time," Dr. Martha Dannenbaum, director for Student Health Services at A&M said. "So students and employees are not required to get a test and get their result before they return to campus. It's really a 'let's find out what the status of our campus is' and find out if we have some people who have COVID who maybe didn't know they had COVID and so we can work with them to ensure that we minimize their contact in these first early weeks on campus."
Dannenbaum said testing provides valuable information, especially in relation to recent surges of the Delta variant.
"We have several sites across campus, the one that student health is most involved with is the one at the YMCA building right next door to us," Dr. Dannenbaum said. "We have the capacity to do about 2,000 a day over there. We did about 1,100 yesterday. We have room to do plenty more."
Couple that with a mobile van, Curative kiosks, and multiple saliva test locations, the first window of the university's mandatory testing is well underway.
"We are calling this the first mandatory testing window that implies that we plan more, we don't have any planned yet," Dr. Dannenbaum said. "Much of that decision will be made based on the conditions occurring at different times across campus."
Lind is just happy to be back on campus and plans on getting her test done this afternoon.
"Oh, it feels good... It feels like my freshman year again, it's so nice," Lind said.
"It's exciting ... It's feeling like campus did two years ago when we started the fall of 2019," Dr. Dannenbaum said.
Even though you do not have to wear a mask, freshman Adia Kshatriya, still may.
"I don't know... I might... I am thinking about it though," Adia Kshatriya, a freshman at Texas A&M said.
"We have students and other visitors to campus who are wearing a face covering and that is ok," Dannenbaum said. "I think people should do what makes them feel the most comfortable. They know what their own personal health situation is, what their risks are, and how they feel when they are in any kind of a group setting. I would encourage people wear your mask and wear it proudly if that makes you feel most comfortable."
Dr. Dannenbaum said although she doesn't think they will need this many tests, they have planned on testing up to 90,000 people across the campus community.