Spike in cases should require commuter testing

Sam Tapper Managing Editor

The COVID-19 dashboard released each week has been an invaluable resource for students and staff alike, giving the campus community the transparency it deserves regarding the widespread presence of the virus on campus.

So far, the dashboard has shown no evidence of a major outbreak, as there have been seven positive tests among residential students for the entire year, three faculty/staff self-reports, and zero positive tests recorded among those in and around athletics, according to the university dashboard released on Oct. 20.

As a student who lives on campus, these numbers are comforting, at least, as comforting as the news of positive tests among students possibly could be. However, there is still one factor of the dashboard that is of looming concern: commuter positives.

Residential students are subject to being selected for a random test any given week–and it doesn’t matter if they are a commuter student are not. While I understand the need, as somebody who has on-ground classes with commuter students, the this system worries me. So far, according to the dashboard, there have been 38 total positive tests among commuter students.

The process of commuters reporting positive cases to the university’s COVID-19 team is strictly under an honor system. Current protocols, commuters are to get tested for the coronavirus themselves as needed. The university does not require they get tested regularly in order to come to campus.

This is not necessarily a bad plan, but there are several holes. The biggest one in my mind is this: commuters likely will not schedule tests for themselves unless they are either traveling out-of-state or have already experienced symptoms. If the circumstances are the latter, then there is a much bigger problem than just one positive case.

Commuter students come-and-go to campus all the time, many of them coming from all over Connecticut. Some are even commuting from across state lines, requiring that all commuters get tested every two weeks and must report negative results to be allowed to come to campus. Maybe it is setting up additional testing centers around campus specifically for commuters, requiring they come get tested once a week, albeit on their own time.

I do not know the right answer to this equation, and I cannot say it is a surprise that there is no concrete plan for commuters like there is for residents, because this is as complex as it gets. But what I do know is that a commuter student could experience mild symptoms and still come to campus, potentially passing it on to an entire classroom or club of people, before they even get tested.

We have been lucky in terms of keeping the prevalence of COVID-19 on campus. The situation is not over yet.

Currently, it is far from resolved, and commuter positives could prove to be the university’s Achilles heel.

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