Opinion: The bad and ugly of American University’s only testing center
Individual COVID-19 test kits could incentivize students to continue testing
I am no stranger to the cold and I often find the D.C. winter to be warm in comparison to my central New York childhood. However, I do wince as I feel the striking mid-Atlantic winter wind as I walk across the parking lot from my dorm hall in East Campus to go to the nearest and only coronavirus testing site on campus.
College students are often guilty of being discouraged by things that may slightly inconvenience them. Truth be told, even though I am a resident of East Campus, I have felt reluctant to take a test, though I am grateful for how close it is to my dorm hall, less than 50 feet away. However, many of my fellow peers do not have this luxury and are often offset by AU’s singular testing center. To promote more frequent testing within AU’s community, I believe many changes must be made.
I believe that one feasible solution is the introduction of testing kits. A friend of mine at the University at Albany updated me about his experiences with the University’s testing protocols. He is given a testing kit weekly to test for COVID-19 and told me how easy the process was for him. If AU were to implement testing kits in place of East Campus’ Constitution Hall’s testing center, the incentives for students across campus to test more frequently would increase.
Students at the University at Albany receive testing kits, similar to the tests we take on campus, from a designated location on campus. Then, students may bring these kits to their dorms, collect their saliva samples and return their test kit to the same designated location the next day. The efficiency and accessibility of this testing protocol baffled me and I am surprised that we have not adopted a similar system.
The testing kit would also solve the issue of staffing AU’s East Campus testing site. The solution to this problem is clear: stock the desk receptionists at each dormitory with these at-home testing kits, allowing them to be the designated pick-up/drop-off site. This way, students have available tests in their own dormitories, in a very convenient location.
The East Campus testing center is the only COVID-19 testing center on AU’s campus. Located in Constitution Hall, students are given a small bag with a funnel, a small tube and an alcohol wipe to collect saliva samples for a PCR test. Students sit in a room with dozens of chairs, six feet apart, often filled with other students testing for COVID-19. By sitting maskless, surrounded by various students who could potentially be ill, students are putting themselves at risk of contracting the virus, perpetuating the cycle of testing.
Despite the clear issue of sitting in a room full of potentially COVID-positive students, Constitution Hall’s testing center fails to incentivize students from across campus halls and off-campus students to be tested. Especially in the winter, students must face the cold wind, poor weather and a long walk to test far away from their dorm. While we may hope that students will act responsibly and test regardless of the weather, this is unlikely. A walk from Cassell Hall to Constitution Hall may have resulted in students turning away from testing.
Though, there are arguments to be made against the introduction of testing kits, which could be indicative of the University’s reluctance to make changes. There is minimally nothing stopping students from taking tests for each other in order to put forth a negative COVID test, for example. As a community, however, it is important to put trust into the student body and their accountability, as we continue emerging into adulthood and keep AU and surrounding communities safe.
Everyone should act responsibly and test if they believe they could be positive or at risk for the coronavirus. Students should also comply with the new surveillance testing protocols. But college students will continue to be college students and testing will not be a priority to many students, especially those who live further away from Constitution Hall.
Why is AU incapable of distributing testing kits, like that of UAlbany, in dorm halls or in the same locations where we obtain our KN95 masks? By doing so, the problem of students trekking from various locations on campus would be eliminated and testing would be much more efficient throughout the community. If AU is not going to provide another testing center on campus, closer to dormitories such as Cassell Hall, the University should adopt a system similar to that of UAlbany.
Allie Grande is a sophomore in the School of International Service and a columnist for The Eagle.