Editorial | Compliment University testing with compliance

The moment students returned to campus, everyone feared what they thought to be the inevitable: The University would befall the same fate as countless other universities around the country. COVID-19 cases would rise exponentially, students would be evicted from their dorms and Campustown would return to the quiet, abandoned streets it had been in previous months.

Upon first glance at the University’s COVID-19 cases, one might be tempted to conclude Illinois students are more social, less hygienic and less respectful to public health guidelines. Although this is probably true, don’t draw that from the testing numbers. The administration reported 679 cases of coronavirus within the first week of instruction, but this does not mean campus life is doomed.

The University’s testing capabilities are extensive and thorough. If a student has coronavirus, it will be caught much quicker than it would at other universities, who test significantly less. This will mitigate the spread of the virus, so although initial testing numbers may look unfavorable, it may demonstrate how efficient the University has been at catching cases.

Nonetheless, the University’s testing initiative is bold and unprecedented. Its success or lack thereof will have an effect on the advice public health officials prescribe around the country. Chancellor Robert Jones guessed testing would cost the University $7-$10 million, which is quite an impressive undertaking. 

That said, testing won’t be enough to stop the spread of the virus alone; compliance will be necessary. Additionally, refusing entrance to University buildings to those without a recent negative test result is not the strongest deterrent to avoiding testing, nor is it clear how the University is enforcing this. Therefore, without a severe punishment to avoiding testing, students must regularly test for the common good.

It is immensely difficult to hermit oneself through the entire semester, especially when living on-campus. But limiting your contact to a small group of friends is different from going to bars. Pictures of Joe’s Brewery’s packed courtyard or long lines for The Red Lion illustrate a stubbornness among the student body to do its duty to prevent the spread of illness. 

We therefore implore students to understand a campus outbreak will affect people of all ages, displace students and break the fragile opportunity to have a semblance of normalcy in Champaign-Urbana this semester. If an outbreak occurs, it’s not for the administration’s lack of trying.

The University administration once sat on its hands for a while, leaving its patrons uncertain it had a clear plan to mitigate the disease. But since returning, it is clear the University has invested time, money and effort into keeping campus as safe and COVID-free as possible. But testing can only do so much.

With the University’s testing initiative attracting national attention, students must keep in mind: The country is watching. If an outbreak occurs, it will be embarrassing that we failed here not because of little contact tracing, but because we just could not forgo a few Monday night Blue Guys.

Be responsible and think of others as you go about your day.

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