UT should make COVID-19 testing mandatory for large, official student events

Faleha Quadri, Columnist

I could feel myself tightening my mask as I made my way through the crowded room, the fear of getting exposed to COVID-19 trapping me into a corner, making it difficult to breathe. 

It was my first week on campus, and I decided to brighten up a Wednesday afternoon by attending an on-campus organization’s event. Seeing the multitudes of people packed into a small room sent shivers down my spine. I knew I had done everything possible to protect myself from being exposed to the virus, but how could I be sure that others had taken similar measures?

Due to the numerous unknowns and high transmissibility of the virus, it is critical that the University mandates a COVID-19 testing requirement for large student organization events in official capacities.

It only takes one person infected with the virus to spread it to numerous other people in the same vicinity. Having a testing requirement would act as a form of reassurance for people that are “COVID conscious” and are reluctant to attend these events. 

Simoon Saiyed, international relations and global studies junior, provided insight on testing requirements as someone who hosts events at Nueces Mosque in West Campus. 

“I feel like (having testing requirements) would be a lot more comfortable for the people who choose to come out, and it would make me, as someone hosting the event, feel like I can have a lot more people coming,” Saiyed said. “I wouldn’t have to have (numbers) restrictions and stuff like that.” 

Although this idea seems infeasible, testing thousands of people and accurately documenting it in one location is possible ––  through the Protect Texas Together app. 

If you download the Protect Texas Together app, which the University encourages you to do, you will find a multitude of resources available to ensure that you are keeping yourself and others around you safe.

Its features include statistics on COVID-19 cases in Austin and at UT, contract tracing, symptom surveys and the focus of our argument today — the Activity Pass.

Jessica Klima, director of the Proactive Community Testing program at the University, explained the functionalities of the Activity Pass and how it can affect the way we approach testing at the University.

“(The Activity Pass) displays a ‘cleared’ status to show that you’ve been cleared with a negative test in order to participate in an activity, and it’s up to different organizations or groups that want to use the pass,” Klima said. “It’s not mandatory or required, it’s just an extra feature that was developed alongside the PCT program. And we’ve developed a tool in hopes that an organization would use it.” 

“To enable this feature, first add your Activity Pass consent in the Protect Texas Together app. Clearance can be obtained via ‘not detected’ results at a UT Proactive Community Testing site,” Klima added in an email. 

On-campus groups, such as the Senate of College Councils, have already started using this feature.

While it might be difficult to hold every organization accountable by administering these requirements, it is a step in the right direction for the University and would show students UT is prioritizing student safety.

Not only can the Activity Pass revolutionize testing requirements by consolidating them in one location, but it also has the power to ease worries concerning the transmission of COVID-19 in social settings.

Mandating testing for school-affiliated events would show that the University cares about its students. It encourages interactions between individuals in a safe environment and promotes the development of long-term friendships between students in a world that is recovering from isolation.

Quadri is a Plan II and business freshman from Austin, Texas.