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Editorial: UNC's COVID-19 testing needs to expand

COVID Testing Problems
A long line forms Monday outside of the Student Union to get tested for COVID-19.

Update: Campus Health has started waiving the $50 weekend charge for COVID-19 testing and care at the beginning of fall semester. However, some students were recently charged in error (if this is the case, they can contact Campus Health Patient Accounts for a refund), according UNC Media Relations.

Additionally, Media Relations stated that COVID-19 testing at Campus Health is intended for symptomatic students, while asymptomatic students and employees are tested through the Carolina Together Testing Program at the Carolina Union.

COVID-19 testing has been a point of contention for UNC as the school attempts a “normal return” to college life during the ongoing pandemic. At the beginning of August, UNC only required testing once a week for unvaccinated individuals and allowed vaccinated students to opt-out altogether.

Around one in three people who have coronavirus don’t have symptoms, but could be spreading it to other individuals. Regular testing, in addition to getting vaccinated and social distancing, is one of the ways to slow virus spread.

On Aug. 24, UNC changed its testing policy to twice a week for unvaccinated students. However, testing for vaccinated individuals still remained completely optional.

UNC Media Relations told The Daily Tar Heel Monday that being able to opt-out of regular testing is a "major incentive" for students to get vaccinated. But it isn't enough.

We know COVID-19 vaccines are not 100 percent foolproof, and breakthrough cases have occurred.

UNC Media Relations said the decision to only have one testing center — the Carolina Together Testing Clinic — on campus was based on the guidance of their medical experts led by Dr. Amir Barzin. 

"University leaders and health experts continue to monitor the pandemic and will make adjustments to our plans as necessary to dial up or down our safety measures as needed," Media Relations said in an email to the DTH Monday.

Campus testing has been limited to the Carolina Union, compared to three locations being offered throughout last year’s classes. However, lines have already been seen extending across the Pit between classes and at lunchtime. 

The testing center is only open during working hours throughout the week and reduced hours on Fridays. They completely close on the weekends, despite over 8,000 students living on campus and more across the Chapel Hill and Carrboro areas. Orange County’s public testing sites are also closed on weekends, leaving students with very limited options if they are looking for weekend testing. 

The Carolina Together Testing Clinic has the capacity to administer enough tests and the hours of operation "target the hours to when our campus is most likely to use the clinic," according to Media Relations.

While Campus Health is open on Saturdays and Sundays, there is a required $50 fee for any weekend service. Having students pay out-of-pocket for a COVID-19 test disincentivizes preventative testing.

Closing free testing options during the weekend — a time where college students are generally the most social — is a dangerous decision by the administration behind UNC’s COVID-19 testing effort.

With packed indoor dining at Lenoir and Chase Dining Halls, as well as Kenan Memorial Football Stadium gearing up for large-scale crowds in the upcoming weeks, we can expect to see a resurgence of COVID-19 cases, especially given the highly contagious nature of the delta variant.

UNC has ample resources and availability for students to be tested and should expand testing hours and centers in order to test and keep outbreaks from spiraling across classes. Requiring testing for vaccinated individuals must also be considered as a preventative measure to protect not only students and faculty, but also Chapel Hill’s permanent residents and community. 

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It’s imperative the University step up and use the resources available to them to prevent further spikes in COVID-19 cases.


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