Throughout the day Wednesday, students could be seen lining up at the Merlo Field and Chiles Center box offices to get their mandatory COVID-19 self-tests. This was the first day of the University’s three day testing plan. All students must submit their test results by Friday, Jan. 14, unless they have tested positive in the last 90 days.
Those who test positive on campus will be moved to an isolation room, if one is available. There are 114 beds for on-campus isolation. Off-campus students will quarantine in their homes, according to Acting President and Provost Herbert Medina and the COVID-19 Steering Committee.
“The pickup process was really easy, there weren’t really any lines,” junior Jessie Allan said. “There were three different lanes and they had people there to help me. I handed over my ID and it took a minute for them to look up my name in the system and I got handed my box and instructions.”
Tests will continue to be handed out Jan. 13-14 from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. in the same locations. Amidst the Omicron surge, students are supportive of the plan for COVID-19 testing.
“I feel good that the school cares about COVID and they're trying to prevent it,” freshman Veronica Conklin said. “I mean, online is always a little disappointing, but it's kind of what we have to do in this situation.”
This first day of testing came shortly after UP announced that it would move its second week of the semester online. Since the beginning of the semester, there have been 116 positive cases reported to UP. There were 56 positive cases reported during the entirety of the Fall 2022 semester.
The instructions given with the test kits require everyone to have their test proctored through eMED. They are also required to upload their results to UP’s COVID results page. Students will be emailed when their results are ready.
“I think they're handling it as best as we could given the situation and how everyone's returning,” senior Farrahlynn Bonocan said. “Yeah, so far. I like how they're giving out these test kits, so it's nice.”
Staff volunteers are handing out the test kits and helping guide students who are getting in line.
“I came out to help the campus community stay safe because this is a wonderful thing that we're doing and we want to keep all students, faculty, staff and everyone safe to be able to have all the students come back and be on campus again,” Associate Vice President and Controller Lori Watson said.
Volunteers are eager to help students transition back to campus.
“Anything we can do to make sure that students are getting tests so that we can work our way back hopefully to getting in person classes again… we’re gonna do what we can,” Kyle Garcia, program manager of communications for Athletics, said.
Faculty and staff are encouraged to seek COVID-19 tests from their healthcare providers to allow for more tests to be available to students, according to Medina and the COVID-19 Steering Committee.
The University has plenty of tests available for students, and has ordered more as a precaution, Medina and the COVID-19 Steering Committee said in an email.
UP is using Abbott BinaxNOW antigen tests, which researchers have found can detect positive COVID-19 cases in 95% of those with a high viral load, according to the New York Times. However, the antigen tests only detected 65% of the positive cases identified by the more precise P.C.R tests, the New York Times reported.
P.C.R tests are reserved for symptomatic students, and can be scheduled through the Health and Counseling Center (HCC), according to Interim Co-Director of the HCC Kaylin Soldat.
Once the final report for positive cases is available, the COVID-19 Steering Committee will make a decision on the return to in-person instruction. It is not clear when the Pilots Prevent Dashboard will be updated to reflect the new case count.
“As you can imagine we’re trying to process lots of data and we are working very hard to get results generated as quickly as possible,” Associate Director for Events Sean Ducey said in an email.
After this week, UP will continue testing symptomatic students, but will not start surveillance testing, according to Medina and the COVID-19 Steering Committee. Take-home tests will be available through Campus Safety.
Brie Haro contributed to this story. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chiara Profenna contributed to this story. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Janea Melido contributed to this story. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kimberly Cortez contributed to this story. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Laura Heffernan contributed to this story. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Austin De Dios is the Editor-in-Chief of The Beacon. He can be reached at email@example.com.