Upon arrival back to campus after spring break, University of Maryland students were required to take a COVID-19 test within two weeks. For many students, the COVID-19 testing center in the Stamp Student Union provides a convenient place to get tested, in compliance with the university’s requirement that its students and faculty are tested every two weeks. But how accessible is the testing center to students?
Lucy Young, a sophomore hearing and speech sciences major and Spanish and disability studies double minor, works at the COVID-19 testing center in the Stamp Student Union. Young mainly works as a greeter, welcoming students and pointing them in the right direction when they show up to get tested. Many students are satisfied with the efficiency of the testing center, Young said.
“I would say a lot of people are satisfied, because it’s such a quick process. The whole process takes like five seconds. I walk into Stamp, go to the ballroom, get my test, and I’m out in two minutes,” Young said.
Testing takes place in the student union’s ballroom, with 17 different curtained testing stations operating at one time. COVID-19 tests at the testing center are now self-administered; students pull down their own masks (keeping them over their mouths) and swab each nostril with a swab stick for 10 seconds. There are approximately 2,000 tests administered at the testing center every day it is open, Young said.
Young also acknowledged the flaws of the testing center.
“I think it’s pretty good so far, but sometimes, at busy hours, the lines do get really long, and we are trying to keep people distanced, so that can be difficult. Somewhere in that, the lines, we would have to work on,” Young said.
Besides long lines during busy hours at the testing center, the only other complaints Young sees are about the wait time to receive positive or negative results from the COVID-19 test.
“Some weeks, you’ll get them back the next day, sometimes it’s until the end of the week, and people want to know,” Young said. “I think we’re always looking for ways to be more efficient,” she added.
As an employee of the COVID-19 testing center in the Stamp Student Union, Young believes that the testing center is mostly efficient and accessible. But how do other students feel about the testing center’s accessibility?
Ancy Joy, a senior double major in journalism and architecture, lives and gets tests for COVID-19 off-campus. The one time she did try to make an appointment to get tested at the testing center in the student union, she was unable to do so. “I have had trouble getting an appointment on time once and because of that, I could not come to campus. But that was that one time,” Joy said. Devika Govindarajan, a sophomore computer science major, lives on-campus, but has stopped going to the testing center in the student union for a COVID-19 test. She tests elsewhere off-campus.
Govindarajan tests off-campus because testing appointments are not available on-campus when she feels like she needs a test, she said.
Govindarajan also has concerns about whether the testing center is requiring enough students to take COVID-19 tests every two weeks.
“Off-campus students that live basically on-campus should also have to submit tests, but don’t, which is dangerous,” Govindarajan said.
While Joy feels more optimistic about the number of COVID-19 tests being administered to students on-campus, she does not feel completely safe returning to campus just yet.
“I would feel safe from COVID-19 on campus to an extent as we have social distancing, mask-wearing, regular testing, and other safe practices in place. But, at the same time, I think that there is still a degree of risk that we may not be able to avoid,” Joy said.