Editorial: With some testing results delayed, we support no test, no class

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“NCNC 42nd Civil Support Team COVID testing inmates, July 17, 2020.” by North Carolina National Guard is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

NW Staff

The length of time it has taken for the NMU student population to receive COVID-19 test results has sparked concern and stress for many. The brief scare everyone had when thinking we would have to attend in-person classes for the first week of the semester without test results has continued for some, whose results have been delayed due to invalidity or lab back-ups.

While it is certainly important to keep in mind the complexity of the situation NMU faces in dealing with this pandemic while still aiming to provide in-person instruction to students, we have concluded it would make the most sense if the university provided for a no test, no class policy for those with questioned or delayed results. There is some transparency with the dashboard result numbers which are frequently updated. However, the university has let some students slip through the cracks.

As of Aug. 26, there are twelve tests that haven’t been returned according to the Safe on Campus dashboard. Additionally, some students have been tested quite recently due to internships or travel issues, Medical Director Dr. Christopher Kirkpatrick said. Students were tested on Aug. 15, 17, 20, and 21. There were additional tests occurring in the University Center on Aug. 24 and 25. 

Students should not be attending classes until they receive their results. This includes students who have already been tested and have been potentially exposed to COVID-19, like the bookstore or golf course cases. Anyone who has also had a test that has come back invalid should be retested and not attend classes. It is important now more than ever that everyone, i.e., professors, students, and administrators, remain flexible and have a Zoom meeting link at the ready for students who may be unable to attend in person.

Invalid tests have come in for a variety of reasons, Kirkpatrick said, and chief among them is the lab may find some test samples too thick. Those samples may be retested by the lab, resulting in a longer waiting time, in order to avoid having to recollect a sample.

“Any type of positives or invalids or things that need to be recollected would best be discussed with a clinical doctor or one of my staff,” Kirkpatrick said.

Some may have questions about why they have not yet received COVID-19 test results. The health center may have difficulty reaching some students through email, Kirpatrick said, because the health center may not have an updated email address on hand. In that case, it is advised to check the Passport to Campus app for their results.

“If they’ve not heard from us directly, they can call the health center at 227-2355 and the results come to me specifically,” Kirpatrick said. “Certainly some of the results that we’re waiting for did come at later dates, so I keep those updated as I received them so some people may not have results yet.”

Despite the hard work of our healthcare heroes in the Vielmetti Health Center, students were lucky if we received our test results within four days of testing. For many this is quite frustrating, especially when considering the amount of money institutions of higher education, including NMU, rake in each year and profit from high-level administration. It seems that with the amount of monetary resources available to the institution, subpar testing conditions could have been avoided more effectively. Perhaps rapid tests could have been obtained, since it seems a college would be a priority location for such measures. Sometimes it seems odd that it appears so difficult for NMU to treat this pandemic with the caution it deserves.

One question many have been considering is, will there be recurring COVID-19 tests from the university, or are we on our own now, to pay for tests that may range from $40 to $250. 

It’s not only frustrating, it’s frightening, and reassuring our fears should be the number one priority for this university.

With nearly 8,000 people coming to campus, surely there were going to be positive tests, but what NMU does next is starting to become more and more alarming. Recently, NMU had two potential COVID-19 sites identified by the local health department. NMU’s testing plan once those sites were identified seemed scrambled and many students who were at one of those sites confused on whether they should self isolate. This confusion could be allowing students who are carrying the virus to come in contact with other students. We feel the most frustrating thing as a student is not knowing what will happen. Sure, you pass the one test, but then you’re good for the semester?

Throughout this semester the main justifications for returning to in-person classes has been NMU’s ability to test students and establish contact tracing as well as provide protective equipment to staff and students.

Despite our inevitable frustration with certain aspects of the handling of the testing, students have been feeling safe enough to attend classes, which is a good sign for NMU’s efforts during this unprecedented problem. Faculty and students have been adapting very well to all of the guidelines that have been set on campus. Everyone is wearing masks and the hallways are open and free with students maintaining their social distancing.