COVID testing site change met with mixed reactions from students and workers

The Mountain View Room in the L.P. Young Student Center has a new job this semester, acting as the site for COVID-19 testing for students and faculty, a job performed last semester by the gymnasium space in the recreation center. This room is noticeably smaller than the recreation center. The new setting has up to three individuals administering tests to up to four students at a time, in contrast to up to four individuals administering tests to up to six students with the old set-up. Another marked difference between the testing sites from last semester to the current one is the lack of place-markers for people waiting in line for check-in, as the recreation center had dedicated lines for each check-in “station,” with X-marks made with tape on the recreation center floor leading up to the stations, each X distanced approximately six feet from the next.

A sophomore film major, who requested not to be named, said that testing this semester compared to the last is more easy-going. “We were testing twice a week, and needed those wristbands to get into buildings. I liked that more,” they said. They then explained their mother is immunocompromised, and said, “I’m worried I’ll bring [COVID] home to her.” When asked about President Treadwell’s reasoning for changing locations to avoid closing the recreation center for another semester, as reported in The Equinox on September 23, the student said, “I don’t think it’s a fair trade-off, because now [testing] is too crowded.” They went on to say that they understand why the decision was made, however, because schools “like to advertise sports and [recreation].”

The earlier hours of testing, around 8:00 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., are relatively quiet, with few lines and nearly no waiting times. One can walk through with relative ease, maintain all expectations of social distancing, and depart within a matter of minutes. As stated by KSC COVID Information on Thursday, September 9th, in an email, the longest wait times are between 11:45 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. These emails, sent each week on the day of one’s scheduled testing, also request that social distancing guidelines be followed and that face masks be worn to cover both the mouth and nose.

A sophomore who assists in the operation of COVID-19 testing said, “Our average wait time is 15 minutes, the only time we really have a rush hour is 11:30 to 1:30, and we don’t usually have a rush hour on Wednesdays. If we do have a long wait, we ask people to come back later or come on a different day, and those people aren’t penalized.” When asked if she liked the current setup compared to last semester, she said she does. “I personally feel that [the protocols] are so much easier to comply with. I definitely like it more. It’s so much easier to integrate into my schedule.” Regarding the validity of the changed location, she said, “It is a valid reason. I understand there are a lot of athletes at this school, when there were such long lines it was difficult for them.” She noted that the use of the recreation center last year made it difficult for them to find space for exercise.

She also explained that there are other benefits to the change. “We don’t have to have so many staff on at one time. That was extremely expensive. Now we have a smaller staff, but because of the way we set it up, it works very well,” she said.

As far as challenges, she said it primarily has to do with masks. “Wearing a mask seems to be an issue for a lot of people, not just wearing it but wearing it properly. If we see it down under your chin or below your nose, we will ask you to pull it up, and people don’t like that. People don’t like being told what to do. But it is important that you wear a mask properly, not only for you but for the people around you. As far as distancing goes, we do try to make sure people are standing apart.”

She frequently remarked on the high rate of compliance, stating that part of why the new setup does protect people is that compliance is frequently monitored, and the results are reassuring. “I think most people take it pretty seriously,” she said. The availability of testing for people who may be experiencing COVID-like symptoms also ensures student safety. Symptomatic testing can be found in Monadnock Hall.

In conclusion, she had this to say: “Just be respectful. You don’t have to be buddybuddy with everybody who works in the testing center, but be respectful. The people who work there are doing it because they care about you, we are students just like you.”

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