PCT participation increases at UT-Austin, walk-ups no longer guaranteed

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Photo Credit: Sierra Wiggers | Daily Texan Staff

Proactive Community Testing participation is now approaching the program’s 5,000 tests per week capacity after increased participation.

Program director Michael Godwin said in an email that several factors have likely contributed to the increase in participation rates, including the incentives program, social media outreach, word of mouth and reducing the wait time between tests from 14 days to 7 days. 

“As we speed toward the holiday break, more people are getting the message that testing can help prevent bringing COVID home to their families, friends and communities,” Godwin said. “We expect this coming week to be very busy at our testing centers as many students prepare to travel home.”

Godwin said 4,700 people were tested during the first week of November, and a similar number were tested last week. During the first week of October, 2,585 people were tested, and 4,635 people were tested during the first full week of November, according to the COVID-19 dashboard.

The COVID-19 dashboard shows a lag of several days in the number of daily tests because the count reflects the number of results UHS receives from the lab, which can take one to three days to report results, Godwin said. 

Godwin said the program is only guaranteeing tests for those with appointments. He said this policy will continue as testing demand remains high, and if an individual makes an appointment, but can’t make it at that time, they will still be guaranteed a test on the day of the appointment. 

“Walk-ups are now limited so that we can adequately serve the population that make appointments for testing,” Godwin said. “This is reflected in our website, and signage is posted at testing sites when we have reached our testing capacity for any given day.” 

Corinne Floyd, a human development and family sciences and Plan II Honors freshman, said she’s been tested six times this semester.

“It's very easily accessible,” Floyd said. “There's always time slots every day that I'm looking to go. It's in Jester, so it's super close to me … all of the nurses that are involved in it, and all the volunteers are really great.”

Bhavya Kethireddipalli, a finance, business honors and Plan II sophomore, said she used to get tested every Tuesday morning at the beginning of the year. She said it’s become harder to do so regularly because she is either in work or class from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every week day, which is when the program offers testing.

“I recently read that they're starting to run out (of tests), because more people are participating, and, for me, that's tough because I used to just be able to book an appointment the day of or a few hours before,” Kethireddipalli said. “Now I check and there's no appointments for like four days, which can be really frustrating.”

Godwin said building and maintaining the testing capacity includes securing competent staffing resources, investments in laboratory equipment, a reliable supply chain for testing materials and personal protective equipment for testing staff.

“UT is competing with all of the other large institutions, agencies, hospitals and clinics and private companies around the state and country for all of the same resources,” Godwin said. 

The program will continue testing for the remainder of the year with the exception of University holidays and resume after the winter break. Godwin said the program does not plan to expand capacity, but hopes to maintain the current level of participation. 

“Especially as students return from the winter break, we’ll want to encourage immediate testing so we can all work together on providing a safe campus environment,” Godwin said. 

Editor’s note: Due to inaccurate information provided by the Proactive Community Testing director, the print version of this story incorrectly said test numbers on the COVID-19 dashboard showed a lag of several days because it listed results by the date they were reported to the state. The Texan regrets this error.