COVID-19 testing has become a regular occurrence for many Cal Poly students. Walking into the testing location, sanitizing their hands, swabbing for ten seconds in each nostril and waiting anxiously for results has become the norm for these students. Some appreciate the frequency of Cal Poly’s latest testing requirements, others believe it’s extreme.
“I feel like they’re taking extra precaution, more precaution than they need to sometimes,” journalism junior Nidia Ramos said. “I appreciate the extra testing, but I do believe it’s excessive.”
After amassing hundreds of positive COVID-19 cases during fall quarter, Cal Poly is now requiring on-campus students and off-campus students that meet certain criteria, to be tested for COVID-19 twice a week.
The university will also begin a pilot program for saliva-based molecular testing as well as wastewater testing to more quickly identify positive cases within on-campus residential communities.
Ramos said she believes that one reason Cal Poly’s cases are so high is because some students may use a negative test as a permissible reason to ignore social distancing rules.
“My thoughts are that Cal Poly is not really communicating enough what it means to get tested,” Ramos said. “Obviously, it doesn’t mean it’s a pass to go to parties, it’s not a pass to go to social gatherings.”
Ramos lives on campus in Poly Canyon Village (PCV), and she said that she has not seen much enforcement of social distancing policies.
Audio by Daytona Clarke
Political science sophomore Gabe Katz-Savell said that he appreciates the twice-per-week testing requirement.
“I would say I’m pleasantly surprised with the level of rigor that they are having us test, especially now, I’m a big fan of the twice a week,” Katz-Savell said. “It’s kind of inconvenient, but it’s worth it.”
Katz-Savell lives in a fraternity house off-campus, and he said that the testing requirement makes him feel better about living with so many people.
“I live with 14 people, I would much rather make sure that everyone gets tested twice a week and avoid any chance of getting the virus, or at least know when I’m at risk as soon as possible,” Katz-Savell said.
Katz-Savell said that he thinks that Cal Poly should be testing all students, regardless of whether they live on or off campus.
“I think that knowing college students and knowing how much people want to go outside and see their friends, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to not require everyone to test,” Katz-Savell said.
Aerospace engineering senior Sam Westrick participated in Cal Poly’s new saliva test. He said the only downside he found with it is that it requires a moderate amount of spit, so it takes a bit longer than the nasal swab, but he liked that it was less invasive.
Industrial technology and packaging junior Avery Johnson said she prefers the current testing requirements in comparison to the requirements put in place during fall quarter.
“They did a terrible job of testing last quarter because it was every other week and I feel like that gave students who contracted the virus a lot of time to potentially spread it before being tested,” Johnson said.
Johnson said she thinks the nasal swab is relatively easy, and she said that she worries that the saliva test will cause students to have their masks down for longer while they’re trying to fill the vile with spit.
Candace Winstead is a biological sciences professor at Cal Poly who specializes in public health and immunology. In a conversation with Mustang News via Twitter, she expressed her disappointment with the way that Cal Poly has responded to COVID-19.
“I’m mostly feeling concerned about Cal Poly’s response to COVID right now, especially with the level of campus repopulation at a time when the pandemic is peaking, hospitals are overwhelmed and so many people are dying,” Winstead wrote.
According to Winstead, Cal Poly could have urged freshmen and anyone without on-campus class to stay put wherever they were for the holidays, if possible, and converted more classes online.
However, Winstead said that the increased testing gives her hope.
“I’m encouraged by the increased level of testing, and the potential for vaccines in the future,” Winstead said.
Cal Poly spokesperson Matt Lazier commented on Cal Poly’s testing policy and response to COVID-19 via email on behalf of the University.
“As we expand our ongoing testing for winter quarter, we are focused on testing on-campus students at least twice weekly and requiring testing of off-campus resident students to the extent that we are legally capable,” Lazier wrote.