Recent alumni should be able to receive COVID-19 testing on campus

Coronavirus cases around the United States have plummeted since early January, falling from more than 250,000 new cases per day to fewer than 70,000 by the end of February. This is unmistakably good news. Progress in combating the virus has flagged over the last two weeks, and, unfortunately, colleges and universities around the United States are part of the reason why. Cases on campuses have risen by nearly one-third since the new year began.

D.C.’s seven universities have seen 388 new cases since Jan. 1, with GW accounting for nearly half of those. Students were sent home last spring to avert this exact problem, but thousands have returned to the District to resume some semblance of a normal college experience. These people, myself included, have access to resources like testing sites to ensure we are safe during this time. But when seniors graduate in a couple of months, those in D.C. will suddenly lack access to resources like convenient testing to which many, myself included, have become accustomed.

To combat this rise in cases, the University should expand the pool of people who can come get tested on campus to include recent alumni, at least those who graduated in the last few years.

A lot of recent alumni still live around campus, and there are plenty of available testing slots for off-campus students like myself. Adding recent alumni to the pool of people who can get tested at Shenkman Hall will help reduce the burden on other testing sites around D.C. without inconveniencing students. While the number of daily tests administered by the District is relatively low right now, another wave of COVID-19 cases is due this spring as variants tear through the country, meaning new cases – and necessary tests – are likely to rise, perhaps beyond levels previously seen. The cost to the University is presumably minimal – they’re already doing a lot of tests, and a few more won’t make much difference.

From the University’s perspective, expanding testing is an easy way to build some goodwill. The alumni that recently graduated may well still rue the loss of their last on-campus semester or two. Plus, graduating from college after missing any semblance of campus life for more than a year is pretty anticlimactic. Taking concrete steps to involve recent alumni in the GW community may go a long way in making those students feel like they’re still a part of the community.

If and when I am still around campus this May, it would be a relief to have access to testing sites I have gone to for the past year. I know the same is true for my senior peers. Building or rebuilding a sense of community among current and former students is key right now. It’s convenient and takes a little bit of a weight off of everyone’s shoulders. This group of alumni is likely more spread out around D.C., so ensuring that recent graduates have access to COVID-19 testing is vital.

GW can be something other than a front for a real estate corporation and do some good for their new alumni. Relieving some of D.C.’s testing responsibilities is also a small step toward being a better partner with the city, and it may help alumni feel like part of the GW community again.

Matthew Zachary, a senior majoring in Latin American studies, is a columnist.

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