Campus testing does not provide a sense of security

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Gabe Darley | Contributing Artist

The Campus Patient Portal crashes frequently when scheduling a COVID-19 test

Deeya Patel, Views Editor

It is apparent that unease has punctuated life at Tulane this semester. Overheard in passing conversations, seen in tweets and read in emails is a widespread panic that the university is making a mistake by reopening campus and proceeding with in-person classes during a pandemic. 

The administration has repeatedly reassured the student body that all measures are being taken seriously to ensure the safety of the student body, especially regarding COVID-19 testing. The testing experiences of many students do not reflect the confident claims of school officials, however.

On Sep. 1, Dean of Students Erica Woodley announced plans to launch a dashboard of daily COVID-19 test results, despite the fact that students began moving back to campus more than three weeks ago. As of now, the student body’s knowledge of positive cases on campus is limited to weekly emails that deliver the data in wordy messages. 

Woodley’s announcement was likely only spurred by the petitions and complaints of students demanding transparency and accessibility regarding the number of cases on campus. Tulane’s promise of transparency has yet to be seen, reflected by the administration’s vague claim of “hope that by next week” the dashboard of COVID-19 test data will be up and available for the public to view. 

In the meantime, students have been dissecting the data that has been provided by the university and coming up with their own theories about the manipulation of the numbers, including turning away symptomatic students who want to be tested to keep reported infection rates low. 

Since the start of classes, it has become a common notion among students that if you are symptomatic, you will be turned away at the testing center. Many students also believe that if you were a close contact of an infected individual, you will not be tested at all and simply quarantined. 

While these rumors have been dispelled, these explanations were only made available on Sep.1, an action far too delayed for a community that has been quickly and openly sharing experiences with one another. 

Clarifying rumors as dangerous and widespread as these should not have taken three weeks. The nuances of testing should have been made clear before any individual returned to campus. 

Putting students’ paranoia of the administration cherry-picking data aside, it is almost guaranteed that there is a significant number of false-negative cases that are unknowingly spreading the virus throughout campus. This can be seen every 15 minutes in the testing center in Paterson Hall, where tests are self-administered and loosely monitored, leading to the possibility of misuse and inaccurate testing. 

Additionally, the healthcare providers present are not able to actively oversee all nine students at once over the course of approximately a minute, usually how long testing takes. Some students are shy of the pain and do not swab properly. For others, the instructions are not clear enough.

Along with uncomfortably faulty testing procedures, there is a clear lack of communication between the administration and Tulane’s healthcare providers, hinting almost at improvisation on the university’s part. This expediency, which risks the lives of 14,000 students, nearly 5,500 faculty members and an entire city of marginalized citizens, is entirely unacceptable. 

The process of scheduling a test is less than streamlined. The Campus Health Patient Portal frequently crashes and there can be up to a three-day delay between scheduling an appointment and receiving a QR code, which has been required to receive a test at Paterson Hall. Nurses have also claimed to be unaware that students are to undergo weekly testing.

It seems ambitious for Tulane to announce that they will be increasing testing to twice a week when the current procedure continues to be inexcusably disorganized. 

Tulane’s testing plan has proven to be shaky since the beginning of the semester. If the university hopes to flatten the curve, which appears to be only growing steeper, they must start meeting students’ demands much more quickly than they have been these past three weeks.