This weekend, the students living on-campus at the University of Nevada, Reno—including myself—submitted themselves to the logistical nightmare of producing a negative COVID-19 test before they were allowed back into the dorms.
To meet the housing department’s list of testing requirements, many on-campus students like me, who live outside Reno, had two financially viable options. First, students can get a test before traveling to Reno—which is slightly counterintuitive, since there’s a good chance some of us will be infected while driving or flying. Second, students can line up outside the Student Health Center on Saturday or Sunday for a rapid test and super spread party sponsored by Residential Life.
I’m omitting the third option—to travel up a week early, get tested and stay in a hotel until the dorms open—because that’s simply infeasible for most of us.
Setting aside the fact that this whole scenario is a recipe for infection, and ignoring the philosophical argument that it might have been more ethical to forge a negative test than to follow Residential Life’s move-in plan, there’s another issue at play here that Housing seems to be ignoring completely:
Undoubtedly, many students interpreted their negative test results as permission to party it up over the weekend before the start of classes on Monday.
Just last week, I was on the phone with a friend I hadn’t seen for two months, and even my knee jerk reaction was, “Hey! I’ll test negative in the morning, move my things back into the dorm, and we can hang out as early as Saturday afternoon.” I almost facepalmed after that sentence left my lips.
This is a phenomenon we see all over social media, and it’s a common train of thought that experts are begging us to derail. A negative COVID-19 test does not make it risk-free for people to gather and socialize without regard for public health guidelines.
In the weeks to come, UNR will be dealing with fallout from infected residence hall students who either slipped under the radar during rapid testing, were infected during the move-in and testing process, or met up with off-campus friends (who may or may not be sick) to catch up.
At best, housing’s testing requirement will ring in the new semester with a bump in cases. At worst, the dorms are about to turn into a COVID-19 hotspot, with resident students unwittingly infecting their classmates and Reno locals.
Faith Evans can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @satirical_evans.