EDITORIAL: There is safety in surveillance. It's time to test the unvaccinated

By The Beacon | October 21, 2021 10:41am

UP's COVID-19 testing facility, which has since been removed, was formerly located in Lund Hall. Students were required to present negative Covid test results before moving in Spring Semester. Media Credit: Brennan Crowder / The Beacon

As students return from fall break travels, we are once again reminded that COVID-19 is still on our doorstep. While this may be the most normal semester many of us have ever experienced, things are still far from being back to the good old days. 

According to UP’s vaccination dashboard, 96% of our community is fully vaccinated. We applaud everyone for their continued participation in community safety. However, 97 community members — which includes full-time faculty, staff and undergraduate students — remain unvaccinated, as approved by the administration.

We believe it is the school’s responsibility to surveillance test these individuals in accordance with the CDC’s screening recommendations

Despite our high community vaccination rate, COVID-19 still poses a threat to all of us. We want to ensure that students can continue to enjoy an on-campus experience and this means taking every possible step to prevent an outbreak. The 97 individuals who received vaccine exemptions may include those with medical issues and compromised immune systems, which means extra safety measures will help protect them as well as those that are fully vaccinated. 

We believe the administration has a duty to the community to uphold the highest standards for safety measures and by not surveillance testing unvaccinated individuals, they are taking an unnecessary risk. 

The CDC has released guidance for a mixed campus like ours, where we have a population of both people who are fully vaccinated and people who are not fully vaccinated on campus, sharing space. When there is high community transmission, the CDC recommends screening tests twice weekly for those that are unvaccinated. 

Multnomah County is still in the high transmission category, despite 76% of eligible individuals having had at least one dose. In spite of our vaccines working to prevent hospitalizations, there is still a significant risk in our community. 

Other schools like ours, such as Lewis and Clark and Willamette University, are continuing to surveillance test their unvaccinated students. Some even take it a step further, like Santa Clara University, which is surveillance testing all undergraduate students, despite vaccination status. 

The UP administration isn’t even doing the bare minimum with surveillance testing, and we believe they should be going above and beyond when it comes to student safety. It is in everyone’s best interest to have a healthy UP community. 

The administration has said they would follow CDC guidance for higher education and it is not too late to comply. Especially as students return from fall break travel, it is important that every prevention strategy is employed. 

Like most students, we want as much of a sense of normalcy as possible this year. Our community needs to take every step to prevent an outbreak and that standard starts with the administration. 

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