Last semester, I made my debut as a contributing writer for The Mirror with an article criticising Fairfield University’s lack of precautions against the COVID-19 pandemic. Both the University and the students were to blame, but one thing that I failed to mention was the University’s insufficient testing. Last semester, Fairfield University deemed it responsible to randomly test a mere 10 percent of the population, which clearly led to a number of complications. However, the COVID Health team has decided to continue offering weekly testing for 100 percent of the population in the spring semester, at least until our break.
This could not be a better move. A dedication to weekly testing gives us more accurate numbers of infected students, which then allows students to feel more secure about the choices they make on campus. Personally, I was nervous to go to my in-person classes when we were in Covid-19 Status Level: Code Orange last semester, since it was unknown who did and who did not have COVID. As someone who was only tested a handful of times last semester, I was also nervous that I could be spreading COVID to my classmates without even knowing it. With the security of mandatory weekly testing for all students, I have felt better about the choices I make when I socialize and more comfortable with the prospect of learning in person.
As a Resident Assistant, I was also nervous about the COVID-19 pandemic hitting my residents. Going on duty means going on rounds, and going on rounds means that I must check the wings of all students in the building to make sure everyone is safe. When the pandemic hit my building last semester, it was scary to even just enter the wings of those who were contact traced and put into isolation. Though it was not the residents’ fault, it was still a chaotic time for the RAs. Luckily, this only happened once or twice, but it was still a lot to handle. Now that we have weekly testing, I know that I feel more comfortable doing my job, which has made a huge impact on the residents as well.
The effects of weekly testing has made the entire student body’s mood lift. In the fall semester, the amount of unknowns were tough for students, especially those who were already worried about their classes. Now that we are in a consistent green zone, I have noticed that more students feel comfortable eating in the Tully, where many of us were known to stay for long periods of time last year, utilizing the lounges, and even playing games outside. Though this is partially because of the spring weather, I have noticed that many students have been feeling comfortable enough to sit outside in the quad with their friends to do homework or just catch up and relax. This, I believe, is a result of weekly testing. Weekly testing nips the problem in the bud before it can even happen, and our low numbers for all the population instead of just a fraction makes the student body more confident that they are doing the right thing.
One of the things that is more inconvenient about weekly testing is the absurd line that forms before testing is open. I consistently get tested at 9:00 a.m. on Mondays, and even if I show up at 8:45 a.m., there are always people there. Now, two lines have been made to make sure the first line does not get out of hand. However, the line for those who show up later gets merged with the first line, which is a little bit confusing if you show up early, like me. Despite this, testing moves along relatively quickly, and most times, I am in and out of the Rec Plex within five minutes.
Though it seems like weekly testing is here to stay, at least for now, I believe that another step should be taken. Recently, the student body was emailed about the proposition of receiving COVID vaccines on campus. If the campus wants to continue making its students more comfortable and secure in a time of total chaos, it is imperative that we receive vaccines as soon as possible. Professors, too, should be included in this – the pandemic has been hard on them as well. Students are our future, and with the high amounts of contact that they are exposed to on a daily basis, they should have adequate access to protections against the virus that has ruined an integral part of their lives.
Overall, though, Fairfield is doing a good job this semester with keeping students safe and ensuring that we feel reassured. Now, students can attend classes, eat in the Tully and hang out with their friends without the constant fear of getting COVID from someone who was not tested. Finally, it seems like we may have some sense of normalcy.