By Asaka Park
Since returning to in-person classes, walking into Decker Hall to get a Covid-19 test has been a staple of campus life and a lingering reminder of the pandemic’s disruption to normalcy. Now, that service has come to an end, prompting mixed reactions among the campus community.
From Spring 2021 to Fall 2022, the College partnered with Bergen New Bridge Medical Center to test students and staff. Located in the Decker basement, the testing center provided free, speedy testing for anyone who suspected they had caught the coronavirus.
“With the availability of at-home self-test kits, there has been a dwindling demand for on-campus testing,” explained Janice Vermeychuk in a campus-wide email on Jan. 9. “That is not to say that Covid-19 is over. It is not.”
The email advised students to have “Covid-19 test kits, a working thermometer, some high-quality masks, and fever-reducing medicine” in handy.
The email also stated that the Covid-19 Outreach Team and Covid-related functions in the ROAR app have been “retired.” Although not mentioned in the Jan. 9 email, the College will also stop requiring Covid-19 vaccinations of prospective students and staff, effective Summer 2023. The latest updates on the College’s Covid-19 policies can be viewed here.
Administrators denied that finance was a significant factor in the decision.
“I am not aware of any financial reasons that the covid testing site was retired,” said Jennifer LaMarsh, director of Budget and Fiscal Planning.
Luke Sacks, head media relations officer, also replied that the College is simply “adjusting course.”
“The college will continue to monitor CDC and state guidance,” said Sacks. “If the situation requires a change, the college will adjust accordingly.”
Not all students think this is a good idea.
“I just feel like they're making excuses,” said Jess Mirkin, a junior criminology major. She characterized the decision as “careless” and “inconsiderate.”
“I don't know — I’ve always thought of it as something that was … necessary,” Mirkin said. Over the past two years, the Decker testing site provided over 71,000 tests, and Mirkin usually visited the testing site “twice a month.”
“I live with 2 other people, and I want to make sure they're safe, and my dad is also immunocompromised,” Mirkin added.
Michael Sentieri, a sophomore finance major, said that he sees how the new policy “may be problematic,” but feels “neutral” overall and feels that the closing of the Decker testing center “inconsequential” as a whole.
“If you want a test, it's still very out there and possible to get one,” Sentieri said.
Still, others expressed concern that students may have a hard time getting tested, without a free testing site on-campus.
Kyla Ramos, a senior computer science major, said that some students may not be able to afford at-home testing kits.
“Even if they are able to afford it, they might not have a car to go and get them,” Ramos said.
And even one extra step is enough to deter students who are already reluctant to get tested.
Tracey Perron, a department chair in the School of Nursing, observed that most people who have let the testing “go by the wayside” do not realize they could have Covid to begin with.
“They're asymptomatic, and they think, ‘oh, I just have allergies, because they don't have these drastic symptoms that we've had in the past,’” Perron explained.
Hilarey Gould, a professor in the journalism department, said that communication is key for both students and faculty.
“Stay home when you're sick, use Zoom to join class when you can't be there in person due to health reasons and make sure students know where they can get medical attention when needed,” Gould advised.
But not everyone has faith in the student body.
“To say that the school trusts us … is a really bold statement,” said Gianna Barone, a sophomore psychology major. She observed students did not comply with masking policies and often saw people attending class while being clearly sick. She also recalled an instance where she had a professor attend class after their family tested positive for Covid-19.
Barone said that the College should still provide “occasional testing,” rather than “abolish[ing] the whole thing.”
Rob Mitten, a senior psychology major, also suggested “supplying students with 1 or 2 at-home testing kits.”
“I think what would be the most fair would be to cut [COVID resources] in half, if not a little less, so that those programs are still there,” said Erika Heinrich, a senior marketing major. “They can have some programs present, but just not at full capacity.”
If you test positive for Covid-19, notify The Housing & Residential Education Office at 609-771-2301 (during business hours) or the CA or Campus Police at 609-771-2345 (outside business hours). Do not come to class for 5 days, day 0 being the day you tested positive, and wear a mask for 5 more days. If you are at risk of severe covid, consult a doctor.