Crawford County officials approved an order Friday that will require most students who will be living in residence halls in the fall at Pittsburg State University to be tested for COVID-19.

PSU has begun testing students, Crawford County Deputy Public Health Officer Linda Bean said at Friday’s Crawford County Commission meeting, with 50 tests done as of Friday morning, another 25 scheduled for later in the day, and an additional 120 tests planned for next week.

"Initially this was presented to students as required for residential, being in the dorms," Bean said. "There was some concern about legal implications of that, so they have relaxed that to recommended but optional, and after further discussion [Crawford County Public Health Officer] Dr. Stebbins and I both very strongly believe that this is an important mitigation strategy for return to campus."

Stebbins has discussed the issue with PSU President Steve Scott, Bean said, who requested a letter stating the county government wanted COVID-19 testing required of students living in the dorms.

"Because of the pandemic and because we do continue to see cases throughout the United States and Kansas, and we will be bringing people from outside of Crawford County, and we know that the CDC has identified that residence halls are higher risk areas for potential spread, we would like to make it a requirement for residential living to be tested," Bean said.

County Commissioner Tom Moody said he agreed. Bean noted that students could opt out of testing, but in that case they would be required to quarantine for 14 days.

After receiving guidance from County Counselor Jim Emerson on the legality of an order regarding COVID-19 testing for students living in residence halls, Commissioner Jeremy Johnson made a motion to approve the proposed order, which passed following a second by Moody. Commissioner Bruce Blair was not at Friday’s meeting.