GW should aid D.C. through Omicron peak

COVID-19 cases in D.C. have skyrocketed over the past month and a half, and the District recorded the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the country. Due to the high demand of testing resources across the country, folks have been struggling to get their hands on either the PCR or rapid antigen tests. High demand, long lines and long distances are deterring factors for people to get tested. The Medical Faculty Associates website even says that due to “high demand,” those who seek COVID-19 tests might be asked to go to another facility for testing. 

To aid the non-GW D.C. community through the COVID-19 spike driven by the Omicron variant, GW should consider opening extra testing sites to test non-GW District residents, work with Mayor Muriel Bowser’s office to bolster testing efforts in the District and fund tests for residents who can’t afford to buy a rapid antigen test.

But for the GW community, testing has been blissfully simple. The sites have been easily accessible, the results come within 48 hours and appointments are usually available. This has made life at GW easier and has proven to keep COVID-19 at bay over the course of the past semester. If the University further extends some of these resources to the larger D.C. community, it would increase the chances of residents who contract the virus of being aware and promptly isolating themselves from others.

Though the MFA already offers testing in three locations in D.C, the University should open additional walk-up sites that are open early in the morning and close late at night. The MFA sites only offer tests for a couple hours in the middle of the day, which is not a feasible period for people who work during that time.

Some universities in New York are already working as community testing centers on a large scale. Last week, Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul announced that in a partnership with State Universities of New York and Syracuse University, the state government will open several new testing sites across the country on college campuses. These sites are open for longer than the testing sites offered by the MFA, depending on the day and location. 

GW has a large public health apparatus and should use this to the community’s benefit. Similar to New York and SUNY, the University can partner with Bowser’s office to open more testing sites across the District. GW should also increase the number of testing sites on campus that are open to non-GW D.C. residents rather than limiting it to the couple of sites run by the MFA. 

Though the District government does provide pick up and drop off PCR testing, results normally take anywhere from 3-5 days, which is a long turnaround. Because the new variants are getting increasingly transmissible, it is important for people to know their results within the next day or two to know whether they are contagious before seeing people. It would be helpful if GW opened more testing sites with quicker turnarounds.

Moreover, those who are not insured incur costs if they go looking for a PCR test at MFA sites. It costs $150 to be “evaluated for testing” for residents who don’t have insurance.  New testing sites should not charge people who come by for any kind of COVID-19 tests, either rapid antigen or PCR, so as to be as accessible to the community as possible.  These sites should be funded through the D.C. government while GW provides employees and space to carry testing out. 

GW has done a phenomenal job testing the GW community and getting results in on time. But for those who don’t have access to these resources, the holidays and winter season have proved to be difficult for finding any kind of testing. Hopefully, the University can use its resources to be a force for good in the D.C. area by offering an extra site to boost the nationwide testing effort.

Shreeya Aranake, a senior majoring in history, is the contributing opinions editor. 

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