DUEREGER: U.Va. must prioritize the health of its community – The Cavalier Daily

It’s been almost two years since the doctors developed vaccine to mitigate the deadly effects of COVID-19, restoring a sense of normalcy to our lives. Although high efficiency of this technology, COVID-19 remains a threat to our lives – stubbornly refusing to wave the white flag of transmission. This is especially true in Charlottesville, where the Centers for Disease Control is located categorizes the area has a high level of COVID-19 in the community – we recommend that those with symptoms get tested. As such, the university must reinstate its free COVID-19 saliva testing program and tracking website to ensure the safety of all members of the Charlottesville community.

In an email sent to the community last March, university management announced will eliminate the requirement that unvaccinated students be tested weekly and phase out its saliva testing program. Eliminating the saliva testing program was the university’s first mistake. This optional testing program was available to students who had recent symptoms fall, allowing them to take the necessary precautions to stop the spread of COVID-19. In June, the university stopped updating its own Tracking of COVID-19 due to the low number of cases and hospitalizations in the Charlottesville community. The tracker has been in service ever since August 2020, reporting key health statistics such as case numbers, hospitalizations and positive test results rates. Stopping the tracking of COVID-19 was his second mistake. In place of the once active statistics, the university directs viewers to the CDC website, which outlines “preventive steps to take.” Yet oddly enough, the CDC website recommends Charlottesville community to be tested if showing symptoms. It’s clear that the university doesn’t care as much as it once did about how COVID-19 is affecting the lives of students and the Charlottesville community – its hypocrisy makes that abundantly clear.

The university seems to lack common sense – or perhaps common decency – in its actions. Using low case numbers and hospitalizations as excuses are only half-hearted excuses that fail to address the surge in COVID-19 cases Charlottesville experienced during the last week. The university’s claim of a low number of cases is troubling given that the Virginia Department of Health says otherwise. More seriously, the side effects of death and such dangerous health problems did not magically disappear amid the rollout of vaccines and declining positive test rates. By removing saliva tests and the tracking website, the university is denying the community access to life-saving or life-threatening information.

This is a matter of inadequate access to information, but it is also a matter of fairness. While the university once offered a free saliva test to Grounds, now only that offers PCR tests for purchase from the Student Health Center. So instead of students being able to test freely and quickly at a nearby testing location, they now have to make the trek across the Grounds to the Student Health Center, where they then have to pay to be tested. It is wrong for the university to simply assume that all students can afford this change. To call this new process an inconvenience is an understatement—it’s sloppy and neglects students who may not have the extra money to buy a test. There should be no financial barriers to obtaining information that affects the welfare and safety of students and the community at large. Students already have enough responsibilities—paying for COVID-19 testing shouldn’t be one of them.

University Management confident students last March that “if viral conditions change materially, we will always be prepared to change our approach to keep our community safe.” I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that viral states change significantly. It’s time to change our approach — or rather return to the old approach of taking the necessary precautions to ensure the safety of our community.

We didn’t apply to college expecting a global pandemic to steal the show, affecting every aspect of our time here. Alas, this happened. And while most Virginians are vaccinated and the face weaker Symptoms of COVID-19, this does not change the fact that COVID-19 is still prevalent in our community. These errors must be corrected immediately. At the very least, we are owed assurances that our lives and well-being are a priority here, on grounds.

Grace Dureger is an opinion columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at [email protected]

The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Cavalier Daily. Columns represent the views of the authors only.

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