Staff Editorial: University provides insufficient testing in light of relaxed mask mandate

PHOTO BY BEAU TATTERSALL/SAN FRANCISCO FOGHORN

Though COVID-19 cases in San Francisco have been on the decline since early August, the University is still not offering students enough opportunities to exert caution and get tested for the virus. 

Having just returned from fall break, we at the Foghorn felt it was necessary to discuss the possibility of a rise in COVID-19 cases at USF. 

Coming into this school year, we knew that certain practices would need to be enforced by the University to allow us to attend in-person classes. Prior to the semester starting, faculty and students knew that there would be a mix of in-person, remote, and hybrid classes.

As we have navigated through the semester, the absence of testing became noticeable to our staff. After a few weeks on campus, as of Sept. 22 there is now weekly testing administered in the McLaren Center. Additionally, we are glad to see that the completion of the daily Dons Health Check is now enforced by a tie to one’s access to buildings on campus.

San Francisco eased its mask mandate in certain indoor spaces, such as college classes who meet regularly and do not exceed 100 people, on Oct. 15. While the student body has shown that we can band together and mask up to ensure a safe return to campus, this change could affect our community. If we keep acting responsibly, we can finish the semester strong. However, this goal could be made even more of a possibility if the University continues enforcing policies with the goal of mitigating the effects of the pandemic.

More than halfway through the semester, we generally agree with the measures the University has taken to keep faculty and students safe and commend them for making adequate changes as needed. However, we also feel that the University has left too much responsibility in the hands of students.

While it is necessary for us, as students, to behave responsibly in regard to the pandemic, following proper health and safety guidelines and recognizing when we are putting our community at risk, the University must provide better guidance to us.

Thus far, students have not had many opportunities to travel outside of California, with the exception of Labor Day, since August. However, fall break gave many students the chance to visit other parts of the country, and while some students are proactive in getting tested to make sure they are not putting others at risk, it is not guaranteed that everyone will be.

The only testing available on campus is the testing site in McLaren which operates Wednesdays from 1-3 p.m. For some students, including our staff, the hours of operation clash with school and work, forcing students to turn to testing sites offered by the city at large. Additionally, USF’s testing site is only open for two hours, leaving us to wonder how the site accommodates appointments. With such a short window, it seems likely that the test site could become overwhelmed with students trying to get tested, especially after they have traveled. 

The school’s promotion of the McLaren test site has been scarce, and we believe this is doing a disservice to the USF community as many might not know about this resource or the extent to which it is accessible to us. 

For some students, it is hard to believe the University has made it this far into the semester without a spike in COVID-19 cases. Aside from San Francisco having high vaccination rates, we feel like the University might have had asymptomatic cases where people felt nothing at all and assumed it was okay to go out into the community. 

The University needs to do better and not just settle for the bare minimum when it comes to our health and safety. Students who lived in essential housing last semester when campus was shut down were tested on a monthly basis, and we believe measures like this should be enforced for the entire community on a larger scale.

With Thanksgiving approaching and students beginning to plan trips back home, the school needs to continue to adapt their COVID-19 testing protocols. Even quarantining needs to be evaluated to make sure that regardless of whether or not a person lives on campus, they are not putting themselves or others at risk. 

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