Administrators have made extensive efforts to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 on GW’s campuses, including implementing a mask mandate, requiring bi-monthly testing and making vaccination against the coronavirus a requirement for accessing campus. Officials even expanded GW’s testing system last month, offering 2,600 more testing appointments and creating a standby line for students who need tests sooner than the appointment schedule allows for. But there’s one area that’s still lacking a sufficient testing apparatus – the Mount Vernon Campus.
The Vern is the only GW campus without a coronavirus testing site, despite being home to almost 700 freshmen. Public health experts and GW officials have said there is likely a small chance that coronavirus would be transmitted on the Vex because of GW’s high vaccination rate and required mask-wearing on the shuttle. But we should not have to take the chance. As helpful as the Vex can be, it places dozens of students in cramped quarters with relatively little circulation. This could put students at a somewhat higher risk of contracting not only coronavirus but other viruses too. Cold and flu season is approaching, and students living on the Vern who feel symptoms might not be inclined to get on a crowded bus where they could spread an illness – coronavirus or otherwise – to determine whether they have coronavirus. We deserve the peace of mind that we are not putting ourselves and others at risk by using University transportation.
The University should look out for its freshmen and act in a way that is consistent with its coronavirus guidance thus far. Establishing a testing site on the Vern would also help the University more quickly detect coronavirus exposure and isolate individuals with cases. Doing so would make cases even easier to trace by helping to alert the administration of when and where cases are. Establishing a testing center on the Vern would also lighten the testing load on Foggy Bottom and make it easier for students there to schedule tests. It would ensure that symptomatic students stay at their respective campuses without spreading a virus on public transportation.
Operating a testing center on the Vern is not a new concept. At the start of the academic year, coronavirus tests were available at Post Hall, which gave freshmen living on the Vern convenient and efficient access to a coronavirus test. From my experience, the temporary testing center ran a tight operation, with most students in and out in a matter of minutes. The center that operated from Post hall can give GW a point of reference for what a permanent Vern-based testing center can and should look like.
Given all that GW has done to combat coronavirus cases on campus and how successful those efforts have been, it is somewhat surprising that they have drawn the line at having a testing center at the Vern. The Vern’s lack of a testing center is a lapse in judgment and is inconsistent with GW’s other extensive efforts to prevent viral transmission. Current freshmen are in our second month of college, and the nation is still grappling with the coronavirus pandemic. Starting college is a big enough transition without the added risk of spreading a highly contagious virus. Opening a testing center on the Vern would give freshmen the peace of mind they deserve during an in-person academic year in the midst of a pandemic.
Evan Wolf, a freshman majoring in political communication, is an opinions writer.