The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Sunday February 28th

Letter: We can work together to make testing a better experience

To the Editor: 

Carolina has just wrapped up a very busy testing week with our new Carolina Together Testing Program.  

First off, we wanted to thank all of the students for their vigilance this semester. From completing testing in your hometowns prior to arrival or completing re-entry testing, you have all really shown a commitment to keeping our community safe. That same commitment is felt by all of those working for or volunteering with the Carolina Together Testing Program.

Last week, we tested nearly 7,000 students at multiple locations — the Student Union, CURRENT ArtSpace + Studio and at seven pop-up testing sites in residence halls across campus. During that time, Saturday and Sunday were our busiest day as students completed re-entry testing before the start of spring semester courses. 

By many measures, we would be celebrating the accomplishments of all of you and the testing program; however, we know that we can work together to make this a better experience. We appreciate the patience and the candid feedback of our students as we fine-tune our operations. We are undertaking something new and monumental together, and your collaboration and commitment is a critical part of our success. 

To that point, we would like to acknowledge that the Student Union did have longer lines over the weekend at times, but it’s important to clarify that testing also was available at CURRENT ArtSpace + Studio, and we have opened our third location at Rams Head Recreation Center as planned. 

While the lines were long at times, they moved quickly. On average, students waited about 15 minutes, with the highest time being about 30 minutes. Additionally, time spent indoors for testing was and will remain very limited, with social distancing and mask wearing when not collecting a specimen. In addition to that, all our sites have HEPA air filter units — next time you come, look for the big white box in the corner of each room.  

Our goal is to always work on the process. We speak so much about how we want the user to have an enjoyable experience. We have people working countless hours around-the-clock to make what we are now doing a process we can all stand behind. We spoke with students as they were waiting to answer questions and provide updates, and we already have more staff and volunteers working the lines. 

As of Tuesday, we were already seeing improvements, and we expect speed and efficiency will improve as we all get more comfortable with the process. As a note, we did nearly 75 percent more tests on Tuesday, Jan. 19, than we did any prior day.  

We know that waiting 30 minutes is not ideal when students and staff must make it to class or work on time, so we are making adjustments to decrease wait times and maximize crowd flow. We also encourage students to use our reservation system on HallPass to secure a testing appointment window. If your preferred time and location are busy, check out one of the other two locations or try another time of day. 

In addition, we have set up our own lab to process the results of tests through the Carolina Together Testing Centers and Campus Health to have quicker results than outside vendors that will help us monitor and isolate positive cases as they arise. 

The on-campus system also allows us to utilize HallPass to schedule reservations, push reminders and track participation to ensure our students are adhering to their testing requirements. We are continuously looking for ways to improve our on-campus testing and have really appreciated student voices.

By the way, on your next visit, please take a moment to thank the volunteers at our testing sites, most of whom are fellow students. In our first week, nearly 350 volunteers logged over 2,000 hours.

Your continued participation in the testing program will help us to have a successful semester at Carolina. These are difficult times, requiring all of us to sacrifice, and we appreciate your willingness to take these steps to promote the health of our community. We are committed to making testing as seamless as possible. 

We encourage you to continue sharing your experiences with us, and we can continue to provide updates in the days ahead.

Dr. Amir Barzin

Assistant Professor, UNC School of Medicine

Steven King

Associate Professor, Hussman School of Journalism and Media

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