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Sunday April 11th

Long lines and uncertainty: Inside the process of COVID-19 testing at UNC

UNC sophomore Aneka Happer goes to wait in line at Campus Health's COVID-19 testing center on Friday, Aug. 21, 2020.
Buy Photos UNC sophomore Aneka Happer goes to wait in line at Campus Health's COVID-19 testing center on Friday, Aug. 21, 2020.

The University has conducted 3,583 tests for COVID-19 through campus testing, as of Friday, when the UNC’s dashboard data was last updated. But for some UNC students, the process to get tested using campus testing facilities has come with its own set of challenges.

The University offered COVID-19 testing at Campus Health and the UNC Health Respiratory Diagnostic Center from Aug. 21 to Aug. 23, according to an email sent to residents of Ehringhaus Residence Hall, Hinton James Residence Hall and Granville Towers.

You could see the fear in her eyes'

Senior Payton Tysinger got tested at Campus Health on Aug. 14. He posted a tweet about his experience that day — which has now received nearly 2,000 likes and 900 retweets.



“That whole process of getting tested, as I’m sure you can see from the pictures, was just a little disgruntling,” Tysinger said.

Tysinger called Campus Health around 8 a.m. the day he got tested. He was told the earliest available appointment for a coronavirus test was at 2:45 p.m.

When he got to Campus Health — about 10 minutes before his appointment — there was a line of students waiting outside, 6 feet apart.

“I was really confused because I’ve been tested prior and when I’ve been tested prior, they’ve had me wait in my car, away from anyone else,” Tysinger said. “I get it, it’s Campus Health, and we don’t have our cars nearby, but I was just a little surprised. I figured that the process would have been a little more fleshed out to ensure that there were appropriate precautions.”

Tysinger said he heard the student standing behind him in line say they were showing mild symptoms, such as loss of taste and smell. 

He waited in line for about half an hour before getting tested.

Tysinger said he’d talked with the nurse about the busy day with students continuing to join the line to get tested for COVID-19.

“You could see the fear in her eyes,” he said. “She was freaked out to be doing the work she was doing.”

In an interview with The Daily Tar Heel on Aug. 13, Campus Health Executive Director Ken Pittman said there were about 20 different providers at Campus Health who conduct coronavirus tests on a rotating basis. Pittman said the turnaround time for the PCR nasal swab tests is one to two days.

Tysinger got his test result back the following Monday — it was negative.

Other students felt unsafe after hearing about the lines for testing at Campus Health. They wanted a safer — and cheaper — option for testing.

On Aug. 15, junior Abigale Sopina and her roommates found out that a friend they’d visited with had tested positive. Though they’d followed safety precautions with mask-wearing and social distancing, Sopina and her roommates wanted to get tested just in case. They tried calling Campus Health and started searching for other places to get tested.

“Two of my roommates tried to call and wouldn’t get answers, and we didn’t want to pay $50 because that’s a lot of money for a college student,” Sopina said.

She and her roommates tried visiting clinics and calling facilities in Raleigh, but appointments weren’t available until later in the week.

“And this whole time, all four of us are on our phones trying to find resources from UNC that say, 'Here’s places you can get tested, here’s how to make appointments,'” Sopina said. “We couldn't find any resources from UNC — we were using Duke’s resources.”

Sopina was able to get tested on Aug. 16 at the UNC Health Respiratory Diagnostic Center’s testing, which offered drive-through testing. She’d heard of the center’s testing through other friends. 

Sopina and her roommates tested negative.

Insurance hurdles

On Aug. 17, junior Chloe Kent got tested for COVID-19 at Campus Health. By then, she’d already moved into Craige North, UNC’s on-campus quarantine dorm, due to the symptoms she’d previously described on the phone to Campus Health.

When Kent first called over the weekend, she thought she couldn’t get tested at Campus Health.

“They actually told me since my insurance isn’t in network with them, since they’re charging us for the tests, I might have to pay out of pocket, which kind of sucks,” Kent said. “You’d think UNC would give us all free COVID tests.”

But Kent couldn’t get tested at another facility without risking potential transmission, because her insurance only covered Duke locations, and she had no individual method of transportation.

On Aug. 16, Campus Health announced that students and post-doctoral fellows would no longer have to pay the weekend access charge for testing.



She received her negative test result last Friday — four days after her test — and moved out of Craige North. 

At the time of publication, Kent still was not sure whether her insurance covered the charge of the rest or not.

First-year Erica Bass was living at the AC Hotel in Chapel Hill when she realized she needed a COVID-19 test. She’d moved to the hotel on Aug. 5 after construction challenges with the HVAC system delayed her move-in to East Granville. Bass and other East Granville residents still had access to the Agora, the dining hall for Granville Towers, for meals.

Bass said she was exposed to a positive individual but had to find a place to get tested on her own.

“No one had reached out to me to get tested, or no one had told me that I had been exposed, because they hadn’t found me through contact tracing,” Bass said. “So, I had to get the testing figured out myself, which is not as easy as you’d think it should be.”

Bass made an account with My UNC Chart and did a virtual appointment, explaining that she’d been exposed to a positive individual. She was then directed to the Health Respiratory Diagnostic Center.

But as a first-year without experience with medical appointments, Bass said the process was tough.

“I had to deal with a lot of health insurance information for the first time,” Bass said.

She walked to the testing center alone on Wednesday. Her results came back the next day — she’d tested positive for COVID-19.

That same day, Bass moved into UNC’s on-campus isolation dorm. 

Her story will be continued in the second part of this series focusing on students in on-campus isolation and quarantine dorms. UNC students who’d also like to share their experiences should contact university@dailytarheel.com.

@praveenavsoma

university@dailytarheel.com

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