Can the System Take it?

Spring is upon us: people are out lawning, enjoying the warmer weather, and hanging out with friends. No one wants to be quarantined in the basement of Sykes with eight other people and not enough cots. With the surge of cases, however, Covid on campus is becoming more frequent. Rapid antigen tests seem to be the best way to get needed results as fast as possible, and we take them like it is nothing out of the ordinary. But, are they even effective if we aren’t doing them properly?

I know we have had a decent amount of swabs stuck up our noses throughout the pandemic, but can we be trusted to do this ourselves? For the sake of time, it is pretty easy to end the timer a bit earlier to get the test over with. Plus, sticking a swab up my nose until I start sneezing makes me want to not stick it up as high. But, although these things and a few others may seem like small factors, combined, they result in a higher chance of a false negative. It is hard to tell if we actually got everything into the liquid or gauge how far up the swab is meant to go, and minor mistakes like these are likely causing even further spread on campus.

As well as not testing property—hypothetically speaking, of course—if someone tests positive and wants to hide it, it is astoundingly easy to fake your results. Previously, we were not asked for any kind of documentation of our tests, nor were we told to show the adults supervising our tests whether we are positive or negative. The policies have just changed, so we are now supposed to show advisors our tests, but many adults forget to enforce, or even check these changes. The lack of needing ample evidence opens the opportunity for seeing that T line, claiming you don’t have one, then throwing out the test. Although the protocol has changed, the damage of the one prior has already been done, and a false negative test is still far too possible to take.

After testing positive, we also all write down a close contacts list, and although it may only seem like whispers, I’ve heard people around campus talking about asking their friends to not mark them down on that list. It is understandable to not want the extra trouble of being a close contact, needing to take that extra test, or self-isolate more than others, but we also all know the health risks. It almost feels like a pressure on your friendship, whether or not you write a friend’s name down. This pressure has the potential of messing with the whole point of the close contact system, so asking students to write their own close contacts list is not accurate anymore.

As our Covid policies continue to change, it is hard for students to keep up. Only recently have we changed to having to show adults our rapid test results. Additionally, every term, our close contact policies change. During fall term, we had Sykes writing our close contact lists for us, but then in winter term, students began writing their own close contact lists, and those notified as close contacts had to self isolate. Now, in spring term, students are still writing their own lists, but what do those being notified have to do? After testing on April 10, those who were close contacts had to wear masks in class and had to take an additional test, but as of recently, those who are close contacts are just asked to participate in the next round of mandatory testing for all students to do. There was also a change from using iHealth to using the Microsoft form to report results, which wasn’t completely clarified to all the students. On Tuesday, April 19, several advising groups did not submit their tests, and only 70 percent of the student body reported results. Whether or not these students knew where they should be submitting, if we aren’t being told what the rules are, how are we supposed to know what is keeping us safe?

I know that Sykes and all the faculty are trying their best, but there are so many flaws with the system. We should be given the information we need to keep everyone aligned with our policies and to keep everyone healthy. And for the safety and sake of each other, our community, we deserve to have trust in others to do what is right when it comes to our health.