Improvements needed on COVID-19 testing

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Photo by Patrick Vitale

As of Saturday, there were 45 active student cases of COVID-19 on campus. While this number may seem small, it is five times larger than the number of positive cases at the start of the fall semester. With this rise in cases, we must examine how we can most effectively mitigate the spread of COVID-19 on campus. 

The COVID-19 policy as it currently stands seems rather ambiguous. Students must be tested upon arrival on campus, but after that it is unclear when exactly they must be tested again. 

A partial solution that I would propose is an increase in the frequency of mandatory tests for students. Speaking from personal experience last semester, I was only tested twice; once upon arrival and once when randomly selected during the semester. Two mandatory tests in a semester are simply not enough. 

Increasing the frequency of testing would allow the health office to identify asymptomatic cases on campus. Currently, only students who are experiencing symptoms or have been exposed to the virus may obtain a test on campus. If a student is experiencing symptoms, he or she must fill out a form detailing their symptoms, after which they may be tested.

This policy does not allow for possible asymptomatic but infected students to get a test. Requiring more mandatory testing would help to stop these asymptomatic transmissions, allowing the school to remain open. 

Many schools already have more frequent mandatory COVID-19 tests. At the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign students are required to get two tests a week. If a student tests positive, their student ID card is locked, and they are not allowed to use it on campus. This aggressive testing and containment policy has allowed a school of over 30,000 undergraduates to remain open. 

While biweekly testing is undoubtedly a logistical impossibility for us at UD, we might still be able to borrow a page from UIUC’s book in regards to more aggressive testing. If we want to avoid a full or even a partial shutdown like the one which occurred last semester, identifying and containing all cases of COVID-19, even asymptomatic cases, is necessary. 

More frequent Covid-19 testing, whether it be weekly or every other week, would effectively allow the university to remain open and serve its community.

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