Opinions: Post spring break baseline testing is truly necessary

By Farah Bassyouni Mar4,2022
Photo by Liam Killian
Photo by Liam Killian

As a majority of our campus is aware, the transition from winter break to moving back in for second semester was not as smooth as one would hope. Students were expected to receive a PCR non-rapid COVID test before moving back in and were informed of this decision in the business between a handful of major holidays. 

Due to this, many testing sites were closed, and the country as a whole was experiencing a shortage of tests at the same time as an influx of positive individuals. Students were left scrambling, and as a result, many positive individuals traveled to campus regardless. A select number of tests were available on campus upon arrival, but many students found confusion with acquiring such a test.

 From an outside perspective, it also appeared that there was little to no advertisement of “pop up tests” that were available at the Shirk Center in the two weeks after moving in. Personally, I was very lucky that I was able to find a location that was still providing tests, though this required me to travel 30 miles from my home. Overall, the experience was far from perfect, and could have been handled differently. 

In light of the new lifted mandates regarding masks, IWU has issued their plans for potential optional mask wearing. This would occur after spring break once the usual surveillance testing has been conducted, and the university would make their decision from there. These plans were detailed in an email sent to the campus community. Although vague, one can assume that masks would be lifted in certain environments after spring break.

Members of the general assembly of Student Senate raised their concerns to Dean Karla regarding the chaos that ensued from testing protocols over winter break. Many members suggested the idea of baseline testing upon arrival to campus after spring break, similar to the way that baseline testing was run during the 2020-2021 school year. However, when this was brought up, Dean Karla explained that this was an expense that the school did not see as entirely necessary, despite the problems that occurred at the semester break. Although she did not, completely disregard the suggestion. Several Student Senators believe that it is beneficial to take more active steps for testing after spring break, especially if there is the potential for a mask removal soon after.

It is difficult to deny that cases will rise upon the return from spring break. Many students are traveling home, going on vacation or will be finding themselves in areas where masks are no longer mandatory. Though the school will most likely expect students to locate a PCR test again, it would be appropriate for the university to assume that it may be difficult for students to find a test in their area. I also feel that it is difficult to make students find a test on their own when not every student has the same accessibility to such resources, whether it be distance, insurance, or other inhibiting factors.

 When putting these two considerations together, a suitable solution would be baseline testing after spring break. In doing this, the school will have a record of every positive and negative result, will be able to handle all positive students at once, and ensure that the campus has a hold on Covid before removing masks. Though surveillance testing is a good option, baseline testing will give students and faculty the relief of knowing the situation is handled before masks are removed.

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