Getting tested for COVID-19 twice a week last spring made me feel safe.
I found peace of mind knowing I did not have the infection, and neither did the people around me. Hearing that Temple would no longer test vaccinated students and staff made me nervous.
Vaccinated students who came into close contact with a student who tested positive for COVID-19 will be required to take COVID-19 tests, but we live in an urban environment. It is extremely possible that a vaccinated student could contract the virus from someone outside of the school without knowing or being tested.
There are serious consequences to not testing all students for COVID-19, such as outbreaks in schools when students return, Tiffany Montgomery, assistant nursing professor.
“It’s too much of a risk to not test everyone,” Montgomery said. “Just because you’ve been vaccinated does not mean you cannot be carrying the virus. It does not mean you cannot transmit the virus to someone else.”
Although Temple has stressed the importance of health and safety by requiring students to wear masks and receive the COVID-19 vaccine by Oct. 15, the university must reinstate COVID-19 testing for all students, not just unvaccinated students.
Temple does not require testing for all students because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not recommend routine testing for fully vaccinated people, wrote Mark Denys, senior director of Student Health Services, in an email to The Temple News.
It is recommended that fully vaccinated people with no COVID-19-like symptoms and no known exposure should be exempted from routine screening testing programs, according to the CDC.
Crystal Wolfe, a freshman finance major, isn’t scared of contracting COVID-19, but is scared that Temple will have to switch back to virtual learning, she said.
“I’m nervous that we’re not getting accurate numbers, and we’re going to underestimate it until it’s too late,” Wolfe said. “Instead of a short term break from classes, it’s all of the sudden going to catch up to us, and we’re gonna have to shut down. That’s what I’m really scared for.”
The University of Pennsylvania required all students, regardless of vaccination status, to be tested for COVID-19 upon their arrival to campus. Beginning the week of Sept. 13, all vaccinated undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in an on-campus program will be required to participate in mandatory screening testing twice a month at Penn, according to the University of Pennsylvania.
Temple should follow Penn in implementing mandatory testing for all students to detect COVID-19 cases.
Abby Rudolph, an epidemiology professor, would like Temple to enforce a testing mandate for all students until Oct. 15, she said.
“I definitely think that there should be, at the very least, testing for everybody regardless of vaccination status before the vaccine requirement is effective,” Rudolph said.
A testing policy for all students, regardless of vaccination status, would bring Temple up to the same level as other schools who require testing, Rudolph added.
“The period of time I would be most concerned about is the period of time leading up to Oct. 15,” Rudolph said.
All healthcare workers, faculty and students of local colleges and universities must be vaccinated by Oct. 15, except in cases of religious or medical exemption, The Temple News reported.
The Delta variant currently makes up 98.8 percent of all COVID-19 cases in the United States, according to the CDC.
As of Aug. 27, there are 1,507 positive cases in Philadelphia, according to the Philadelphia Department of Public Health.
Temple has an estimated 77 active cases of COVID-19 as of Aug. 27, according to Temple’s COVID-19 dashboard.
By not testing all students, Temple will not be able to detect breakthrough infections, said Robert Bettiker, professor of clinical medicine at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine.
“With the Delta variant, it does appear that people who are vaccinated and get infected, they can spread the infection potentially to others, especially if they’re not tested,” Bettiker said.
By requiring all students to get tested weekly, Temple will be able to prevent a potentially more dangerous situation by getting a more accurate number of students who tested positive and negative for COVID-19.
“If it’s a cost issue, let’s figure out how to pay for the tests,” Montgomery said. “If it’s an issue of not knowing how to get folks in to be tested, let’s talk to some public health experts and figure out how to get it done, but we cannot play around with people’s lives.”