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COVID-19 Testing Sites for Alabama College Students Opening

Αssociated Press

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, right, and State Health Officer Scott Harris announce the extension of a state order requiring face masks in public during a press conference, Wednesday, July 29, 2020, in Montgomery, Alabama. (AP Photo/Kim Chandler)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — More than a dozen sites are opening across Alabama to test about 200,000 students before they head to college and university campuses statewide.

Officials said Monday the program will help stem the spread of the new coronavirus only if students abide by guidelines at school.

Finis St. John, head of the board that oversees the three-campus University of Alabama System, said that while the mass testing program will screen all students before they arrive on campuses, the work “will have been for nothing” if they ignore rules about wearing masks and social distancing.

Dr. Michael Saag, an infectious diseases specialist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham who helped design the program, said that with 14 testing sites scattered across the state opening Tuesday, no one should have to travel farther than 60 miles (95 kilometers) to get to one. Test results should be available in a day.

Some students coming to an Alabama school from other states will receive an at-home test they can submit, and some will be able to submit test results from doctors’ offices or commercial laboratories.

The program is funded by $30 million in federal coronavirus assistance.