By Zachary Baker–
The number of COVID-19 cases in the city of Louisville has been fluctuating in the recent weeks. With schools going back in session, including those that meet in-person, we’re likely to see an increase in cases.
With higher possibilities of an outbreak starting on campus, the student body is looking to the U of L administration for guidance. Instead of proper guidance, the university is changing their policies without warning. This may cause the predicted viral outbreak.
Before classes began, the administration’s response to the Student Government Association’s letter stated their desire to follow the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s federal recommendation by not requiring mass testing.
“We have a robust plan for testing and tracing, and we are urging everyone to get tested. But the CDC specifically states that mandatory testing is not advisable, and multiple lines of evidence demonstrate receiving a negative test encourages risky behavior and has been the direct cause of many outbreaks,” said Executive Vice President and Provost Beth Boehm in a letter to the SGA.
That is a stark difference from an email sent on Aug. 23 that stated within the coming week that testing will be required for all students and faculty.
This move by the university seems to be with good intentions to protect the student body. But despite efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19, their choice of actions may cause a viral outbreak on campus.
It is important to understand why the federal guidelines said to not require testing: it would encourage negative behaviors within the student body. A group of people who did not want to be tested may receive a negative test and likely decide it is not dangerous to have a party or something similar.
All it takes is one false negative or someone not yet tested to interact with that group and then you will have people with a “negative test” spreading COVID-19 to many others with negative tests.
While testing can make us safer, the people most likely to be tested are the ones who wish to also self-isolate afterward. Those who do not want to be tested are likely to not follow the recommended guidelines set forth by the administration.
Testing has been provided by the university within the first week and the administration has been posting a weekly COVID-19 positive test counter on the U of L website. Until Aug. 25, the counter only listed 53 positive cases.
There are many on-campus who wish to keep themselves and others safe by getting tested, but the university has not been very open about the processes. The positive test counter is not being updated frequently enough to promote confidence in the student body, and the contradictory language by the administration has caused unneeded stress instead.
“A daily tracker would be invaluable to students who are deciding daily whether it’s safe to go to class in person,” tweeted senior engineering major Emily Walter on Aug. 22.
“We’re still only getting weekly updates, and that’s frankly unacceptable. While I’m thankful our cause count only rose to 90 in the last eight days, it could have been so much worse.”
She added that while she believes U of L is handling safe classroom procedures, they are failing in informing students.
Junior Kirandeep Kaur said that she took a COVID-19 test on Aug. 21, got the results Aug. 22, then was told on Aug. 23 that the mandatory testing protocol would require her to get tested again within the next week.
Let’s say, hypothetically, that the poor communication and the risks proposed by students going out after negative testing are worth it if the testing makes us safer. The issue is that the administration’s sudden change in policy has led to a dangerous testing area set up without realistic prep time.
Today, students went to receive tests at the Student Activity Center testing area. In that one room, there were dozens of students in non-socially distanced space. If at least one is positive then they risk causing an outbreak at the testing sites.
Three weeks ago, we started classes with the expectation the administration is following CDC guidelines to protect us.
As the weeks went on, many students grew concerned with a lack of updates on positive test results.
Now, despite any good intentions by the administration, the student body is likely more at risk by these changes. We can only hope that this sudden change will not be the cause of a viral outbreak on campus.
File Graphic // The Louisville Cardinal