Opinion | University of Iowa must expand COVID-19 Testing

For the sake of making sure the entire student body isn’t wracked with Covid-19 this Thanksgiving, we need to expand testing.


Jeff Sigmund

A Test Iowa site is seen on Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020 at 5455 Kirkwood Blvd S.W. in Cedar Rapids.

Hannah Pinski, Opinions Columnist

University of Iowa students are just days away from a highly anticipated break from the long stretch of the fall semester. While we are excited to return home, however, there is the underlying anxiety of that one burning question — what if I bring COVID-19 to my family?

Colleges and students were already warned back in September that they shouldn’t be sent home when cases were surging on campuses. I personally haven’t seen my family since I returned to campus in August. However, a week-long Thanksgiving Break brings the inevitability of students returning home.

To help ensure that we don’t spread COVID-19 by bringing it back to our hometowns, we have to make sure we are tested negative for the virus.

In order to do this, the UI needs to expand COVID-19 testing to all students who would like to be tested.

Right now, Iowa is experiencing one of its worst phases of the COVID-19 pandemic. UnityPoint Health Des Moines recently reached its capacity,  Johnson County has hit a 30.92 percent 14-day rolling positivity rate, and campus cases are rising again.

Currently, the UI only offers testing for people who have COVID-19 symptoms or were exposed to someone who tested positive for the virus. Other places — HyVee and TestIowa — offer tests for anyone.

Studies have shown that 20 percent of infections are asymptomatic, but it still means that the people infected are contagious.

With the current spike of cases, it is very likely that some students are walking around campus with the virus but aren’t even aware that they have it.

Offering tests to asymptomatic students lets them know they need to self-quarantine, instead of allowing the virus to spread through them and risk the lives of their families back home.

Iowa is not the only state suffering from a spike in cases.

Illinois, home to many UI students, has placed rigorous restrictions like no indoor-seating for restaurants and requiring bars to close by 11 p.m.  In addition, it is also recommended that people coming from what the state labels as “orange tier” states either self-quarantine for 14 days or have a negative test before arriving in Chicago.

Iowa is operating in the red zone, according to the most recent White House Coronavirus Task Force Report and it’s more practical for people to be tested pre-arrival than quarantine and miss Thanksgiving.

The time for everyone to take responsibility is now. We are experiencing the worst phase of the pandemic, and the only way it’s going to improve is if we stop the spread.

Many UI students are still refusing to follow the guidelines. Masks aren’t being worn, parties are still being hosted, and people are gathering in crowded bars. At the very least, the UI needs to make sure that student choices aren’t going to punish families and hometowns.

It’s understood that someone could test negative one day and positive the next. However, catching a few asymptomatic cases is better than catching none. At this point, every action taken to slow the spread counts, no matter how small it is.

While there is excitement about a break and seeing our families again, we must be responsible and keep the people we love safe. One of the most efficient ways to do this is by testing negative for the virus, however the UI must do its part by making tests available to all students.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.