Opinion | The UI needs to continue COVID-19 testing next semester

As vaccines are distributed, the UI should not take away COVID-19 testing for the fall semester.



Syringes for the COVID-19 vaccine lay on a counter at the VA Medical Center in Iowa City on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. The center received the Moderna vaccine for its employees.

Signe Nettum, Opinions Contributor

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new information and guidelines on March 3 for those who are fully vaccinated — meaning two weeks post-second shot. I teared up. I can see my grandparents again and give them a hug.

Though I hate to think about it, there are still chances of getting COVID-19, even for someone who’s vaccinated. Someone who is not vaccinated might think “if others are vaccinated, I can go back to my normal life without precautions.” This mentality of, “Others will do it or be protected from me” is not a strategic way to think during these next (and hopefully last) few months of COVID-19.

As more people are vaccinated, I wondered what testing would look like. Would there be as many places to get tested? Would testing even be a recommendation, or would people just be asked to stay indoors until the chance to get a vaccine opens up for them?

As a possible place for spreading, even with the vaccine, the University of Iowa needs to keep its resources in place. The UI needs to keep testing stations open for the fall 2021 semester, even if a decent number of students and faculty are vaccinated during the spring and summer.

It is better to be safe than sorry when it comes to COVID-19 and providing testing for students even though vaccinations are being distributed is a surefire way to make sure the university does not fail to keep students safe while providing in-person classes this upcoming semester.

While the UI does not currently have mandatory testing, other Big 10 schools like the University of Wisconsin-Madison require students to test twice a week if they have an in-person class. If they live in the residence hall, they must take it every 72 hours. I am not advocating for mandatory, every three days testing, but the option should exist for those who believe they were exposed to the virus.

The UI system for testing is only for people who “have COVID-19 symptoms or are a close contact to a person who has tested positive for the illness.” This does not allow access for asymptomatic people to get tested unless they have had definite contact with someone who tested positive — who are most likely between the ages of 10-19.

With this statistic in mind, the UI needs to keep offering testing with the change of the semester to limit possible spread. In addition, they need to expand its availability for the fall to make sure the return to a more “traditional format” is done in the safest way as possible.

Researchers say that testing should increase for asymptomatic people due to the transmissibility of the virus. If we do not have testing next semester, there is a chance that many students who were unable to receive the vaccine during vacation are able to spread the virus around.

Vaccinations put up a barrier against contracting COVID-19, however the virus itself doesn’t become less contagious.

Right now, a solid way to combat the virus is to keep wearing your mask. I know, we’re all sick of it at this point. But, once again, this is not a time to give up all of the barriers that we have put in place.

We need to look toward the future as well. We need to make sure that testing is available, so that those who contract COVID-19 are able to quarantine and not potentially infect others.

The UI needs to continue offering COVID-19 testing next semester, to make sure the return to mainly in-person instruction is done as safely as possible.

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.