Written by Lili Stevens.
For the students who have been lucky enough to live on campus, or who live close enough to campus to participate, the University of Puget Sound has been hosting free COVID testing days for students, faculty, staff and community members since early September 2020. In these events, hosted by the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, participants are able to get tested and receive results quickly for the small price of waiting in line outside the Wheelock Student Center.
On most days that I have participated in, the line took no longer than 30 minutes, even when I had to fill out the consent papers while waiting in line. However, on the last two testing days, the line crept all the way back from Wheelock to Todd Field and, on November 18, even to Collins Memorial Library, and waiting times were upwards of an hour or two.
November’s first testing day seemed to include more volunteers than other days, with people walking up and down the line, collecting used pens and distributing forms, and three people performing the tests instead of the usual two. In reference to these volunteers, their work has not gone unnoticed. “It was long, and it was wet and cold, but like everyone was nice and people giving out pens and forms and everything were really great,” first-year Austyn Smith said about her experience in the line waiting to get tested on November 18.
Smith’s statement brings up the point of the temperamental Pacific Northwest weather that caused a cold rain to splash down upon volunteers and those getting tested alike on the November testing day. Of course, a little rain rarely scares off Puget Sound students, but it’s still worth mentioning the conditions endured to be tested for COVID free of charge. The general opinion of these events seems to be annoyed but grateful at the same time.
“I mean it sucks to have to wait in line for that long, especially when it’s cold and rainy and windy, but I mean, you know it makes sense, I get the reasons why it’s gotta be done, just you know, the process is unfortunate,” first-year Harry Gers said. The process is indeed unfortunate, and when it is wet and cold, it’s not going to get any better.
At one point in the day, students were playing music out of a window from the second floor of the Trimble Hall, where the line snaked by. This may have boosted morale, as I remember the first testing days all those months ago in September when the volunteers were blasting Katy Perry at 10 a.m.
No matter how anyone feels about the process itself, the frequency of testing and the other restrictions Puget Sound has in place has been undeniably effective in containing the spread of COVID-19 within the Puget Sound community. According to the COVID-19 Dashboard on the University of Puget Sound webpage, every on-campus testing day has reported 0 positive test results since the first one on August 29, 2020. If these processes continue, adjusting for a possible increase in students next semester, I am hopeful that our community can continue through the epidemic and thrive.