After being on campus for almost a full week, especially since the University of Connecticut is operating in the red designation, it is important to take time to reflect on what has and has not gone well so far. In particular, given transmissibility of the omicron variant of COVID-19, reflecting on UConn’s testing strategies is extremely important.
On Jan. 20, just over a week before the start of the spring semester move in, students received an email from Dean of Students Eleanor J.B. Daugherty regarding arrival testing for all residential and off-campus students. Testing was categorized as either “pre-arrival testing” or “arrival testing,” and the arrival testing applied to Storrs off-campus students, Storrs residential students and regional campuses. Students being told to get tested before and/or upon arrival was a very good idea; in a Feb. 2 email, Daugherty stated that due to rigorous arrival testing, a significant number of positive cases were reported and students were able to isolate at home or in on-campus isolation beds.
However, it is important to underline that pre-arrival and arrival testing instructions were unclear. Many students were unsure of whether or not pre-arrival testing and arrival testing were both required and there were vague instructions regarding how to upload test results to the Student Health and Wellness website. Moreover, residential students were still able to complete the check-in process on the MyHousing website to regain swipe access without submitting a negative test prior, leaving students questioning the testing requirements.
UConn needs to be more clear with its instructions so students can plan accordingly. Providing arrival testing for students who are access or complete pre-arrival testing is a good idea. However, this needs to be adequately communicated because many students were unsure if they had to get tested twice. Such confusion is unacceptable.
Arrival testing for residential students also only took place during move-in weekend from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Since a snow storm delayed many students from arriving on campus and some students may not have been able to get tested at home, UConn should have considered alternatives, such as extending the arrival testing window or even providing regarding testing through the first week back on campus.
Furthermore, the site for commuter and off-campus arrival testing was located within Rome commons ballroom. The space filled with unsafe numbers of occupants for an indoor, poorly-ventilated area and may even have been the site of some COVID-19 transmissions.
As the semester progresses, students would greatly benefit from clearer instructions from the UConn administration, especially regarding testing given the rather unpredictable, evolving nature of the pandemic.
Based on Daugherty’s most recent email, testing is being restricted to students who are currently symptomatic for COVID-19, identified close contacts through contact tracing or involved in surveillance testing — similar to last semester. Although this is not ideal and access to more frequent testing for all students will help to better monitor the spread of COVID-19 on campus, Daugherty’s email also mentioned antigen test kits will be available for students starting on Feb. 7 for both Storrs and Hartford students. The information from this email certainly seems clearer than what was provided regarding pre-arrival and arrival testing. We at The Daily Campus hope the UConn administration continues with this level of clarity and that the actual test kit rollout is as smooth as the email indicates.