Let’s get used to twice-a-week testing 

By Editorial Board

Sabrina Templeton

Although it’s our fourth week on campus and our second Covid semester, policies around testing remain nebulous. Since arrival, the student body has been tested for Covid-19 twice a week, every week. This schedule has been a drastic change from last semester’s system of “targeted dynamic testing” in which students were tested intermittently — and seemingly randomly, sometimes not for weeks at a time. Needless to say, there remains widespread confusion about the rationale by which certain students got chosen for testing and when. This confusion has carried over into the spring semester. 

No college update has clarified what exactly the testing regime for the rest of this semester will be. It’s unclear if “targeted dynamic testing” will be making a comeback or if we should permanently build walks to the Athletic Center into our Monday and Thursday routines. While there is frustration around this lack of clarity, and partially around the inconvenience of making the trek across campus, it’s important to note how necessary regular and widespread testing is in order to prevent an outbreak and sustain an on-campus spring semester. 

We editorialized on this very topic toward the end of the fall, emphasizing that “increased testing availability supports not just the physical health of our community but our mental health as well.” Getting tested twice a week, which already occurs at most other NESCAC schools, means that we’re much more likely to catch cases before they spread, especially if people are asymptomatic. 

During a year marked by uncertainty, one of the powers we do have is simple: continue consistent testing and following other protective measures. We urge the college to continue this mandatory, twice-a-week testing for the remainder of the semester. We also encourage the college to offer this kind of accessible and frequent testing to our faculty and staff, as they are vital members of our community. 

No one should assume they are exempt from this process just because they are not symptomatic or feel as though they have done enough testing to be safe. Covid-19 testing only works if we all participate, enabling us to know how many positive cases are on campus and slow any developing outbreaks. We all have school assignments to do, friends we want to spend time with and busy schedules to manage, but taking 30 minutes out of our days to get tested is the least we can do for the protection it provides. Not all of us can afford such a danger to our personal health, or may not have somewhere safe to evacuate to if necessary. 

The outbreak at Duke University this past week serves as a cautionary tale. Even though more Americans are receiving vaccinations and new cases are declining, college campuses are still particularly vulnerable to sudden spikes, especially when students disregard social distancing guidelines. Duke has also been testing their students every week, demonstrating that testing is only reactive in nature and highlighting the importance of students following preventative measures. Frequent testing is not a panacea, but if students continue to wear masks, sanitize, and follow social distancing protocols, regular testing will demonstrate how these preventions minimize the number of active cases on campus.

It can be stressful to add another task to your workload, hard to find the motivation to walk across campus in the cold and irritating to receive yet another automated email. But the inconvenience of testing is a small price to pay for the safety that increased testing provides. Now, the college just needs to let us know what the plan is.

 

This editorial represents the opinions of the Middlebury Campus’s editorial board.