Require weekly COVID-19 testing in dorms

Lucero Ponce, Columnist

At the start of the semester, University Housing and Dining required over 7,000 residents to get tested for COVID-19 before Mooov-In. Now that students are on campus, there are no other testing requirements. Measures are taken by UHD, such as disinfecting high touch areas and common spaces, but they need to do more to reduce the spread of COVID-19. 

Mandatory testing once at the beginning of the semester does not mean students are good to go for the rest of the year. If the University does not want to mandate weekly testing for all students, it can start with residents and take further action from there. UHD should require residents to take a COVID-19 test once a week. 

 Aaron Voyles, director for residence hall operations, said UHD follows University guidelines, including encouraging wearing masks, getting vaccinated and being tested regularly. 

However, nothing is stopping UHD from requiring residents to test weekly. There is no law that prohibits the University from mandating this. Additionally, students complied with the requirement at the beginning of the semester, so there seems to be no issue there either. 

“(University Housing and Dining) followed University guidance during Mooov-In, asking everybody to get tested prior to classes,” Voyles said. “So we in University Housing and Dining aligned with that, to ask students to get tested when they’re moving in, and it was really, really successful. We did not run into issues with students having negative responses. Compliance was great.” 

If there wasn’t any backlash from students, what is stopping UHD from requiring weekly testing for residents?

Jessica Klima, UT Proactive Community Testing program director, says it would be possible to test all 7,400 residents in one week. 

“Since the beginning of the semester, we’ve had the capacity to test 15,000 per week,” Klima said. “It’s underutilized. Last week, we tested around 5,000.”

Both legally and logistically speaking, it is possible for UHD to require residents to get tested for COVID-19 once a week. They just haven’t done so. 

It is essential for UHD to mandate weekly testing, as there have already been cases in residence halls. It begs the question of what would have happened if those individuals did not get tested of their own accord. 

Nikki Hewett, a health and society freshman, agreed that a testing requirement would be much better than simply encouraging students to get tested. 

“I think (a testing requirement) would help a lot because some people aren’t always aware that whatever’s wrong with them is COVID-19,” Hewett said. “A lot of people will assume, ‘Oh I have a stuffy nose or I have a slight cough, but no it’s not COVID-19.’ But if we get tested regularly, then things like that will be taken care of, as well as people who are asymptomatic.”

Simply relying on students to test for COVID-19 is not enough. University Housing and Dining should require residents to test once a week, and to offset stress on PCT test sites, the day they get tested should depend on what floor residents live on. Residents can test at the testing location closest to them. If a resident tests positive, Student Emergency Services will work directly with them to identify the best option and ensure the student has a space to isolate. 

Students living on campus should get tested for COVID-19 every week, as it is an efficient way to reduce the spread of the virus in residence halls. University Housing and Dining promises “worry-free living,” and they need to uphold that promise and start taking real steps to reduce the spread.

Ponce is a journalism freshman from Laredo, Texas.