Opinion: Mandatory testing at American University is necessary
In the wake of the Omicron variant, testing can ensure the health of all students and outside communities
For almost two years, the coronavirus pandemic has altered countless lives. For many, the normal “college experience” has been uprooted by online classes, online semesters and COVID-19 testing. These are precautions necessary to sustain the safety of the scholastic and outer communities, but at American University, weekly testing is not mandated.
I remember my first week at AU, anxiety and excitement-filled week coupled with countless new people and frequent adventures. I was able to experience college for the first time and was no longer envious of my high school peers, who were able to leave for college the year before. For many AU sophomores, this was the first time we were able to leave home, given our online first year. We were no longer met with the fears of bringing COVID-19 home to our family and were finally independent. But at what cost?
Throughout the fall semester, many of my peers have tested positive for COVID-19, many after irresponsible behavior. Inevitably, with these positive cases came the copious amount of exposed people. A butterfly effect of positive cases, especially those of the highly contagious Omicron variant, were found throughout groups and eventually the University resulted in many students being left in quarantine during the holiday season. Due to the University’s testing policies that allowed students to decide when they would get tested, many cases went unnoticed. Students were exposed and COVID-19 cases were highly concentrated, especially before winter break. The spread of these cases might have been avoidable if the University were to mandate weekly testing for students.
In a recent petition created by American University’s Disabled Student Union, almost 1,700 students signed in support of frequent coronavirus testing. This petition gained intense momentum throughout the AU community, with support from various clubs and organizations, such as AU College Democrats and the Student Government Undergraduate Senate, calling for frequent and mandatory testing. By mandating frequent testing throughout the academic community, disabled and immunocompromised students will be much safer as we begin our return to in-person classes in the wake of the Omicron variant. Additionally, spreading coronavirus to outside communities would also decrease with frequent testing.
With mandated testing, it would be much safer for students to go into the community and experience the life that D.C. has to offer. Testing mandates would stop new cases as soon as they are detected, rather than allowing for students to roam freely with an undetected virus and potentially spreading to more people. Immunocompromised and disabled students would be able to attend classes and extracurricular events without fear of contracting COVID-19 from their peers. When I chose to attend AU I looked for an experience opposite to my rural, upstate New York background. I fell in love with the city and looked forward to returning to semi-normal settings without putting my classmates and community members at risk. Mandated testing would help slow COVID-19, thus allowing students like myself to experience college safely and positively.
It is safe to say that coronavirus is not going away anytime soon, as I write from AU’s isolation hotel after testing positive for COVID-19 two days after arriving on campus for the spring semester. I do not believe I am an exception but rather the new norm. With frequent testing, we, as a community, can do our part to minimize the effects and spread of COVID-19. Then, maybe sometime soon, we can find ourselves safely at concerts, screaming songs by our favorite artists.
Allie Grande is a sophomore in the School of International Service and a columnist for The Eagle.