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Students encounter long lines at COVID-19 testing sites upon arrival to campus

UCLA mandates students returning to on-campus housing take a COVID-19 test upon their arrival, a process with mixed reviews. (Ashley Kenney/Photo editor)

By Sydney Kovach and Laura Gulbinas

Jan. 11, 2022 5:54 p.m.

Students returning to on-campus housing from winter break had mixed opinions about the efficiency of getting a COVID-19 test.

The university mandated Dec. 21 that all students returning to campus take a COVID-19 test from a campus vending machine or distribution center upon their arrival and a second one three to five days after coming to campus.

Before checking in at the front desk of their dorm, students are required to take a rapid test in the Covel Commons Grand Horizon Ballroom.

Emma Zhou, a first-year ​​political science and public affairs student, said she thought the process of getting a COVID-19 test upon her arrival to on-campus housing was straightforward. Although Zhou did not have to wait long to check in, she said her friends waited in long lines to activate their BruinCards after their tests showed a negative result.

“I think it depends on what time you check in,” Zhou said.

Sean Seo, a first-year business economics student, said he had to wait in line to take the mandatory COVID-19 test when he arrived on campus Jan. 2.

“While there may have been lines during the first two days of check in, Jan. 1 and 2, testing sites have been staffed up and expanded to additional locations when needed,” said UCLA spokesperson Bill Kisliuk. “There have not been lines for testing throughout the week.”

Seo said the testing process was easy, but it could have been more efficient. He added that he was a bit frustrated that students had to take the test before being able to drop off their bags and check in.

“We just have to take our bags to the testing site, and … when I moved in, the only (testing site) was at Covel, so I had to take my bags to Covel, test and then go up the stairs back to Rieber,” Seo said.

Students can pick up a PCR test from any on-campus housing front desk, Kisliuk said, adding that long wait times may have been due to students waiting for results of their initial rapid tests. Rapid tests are only administered in the Covel Commons Grand Horizon Ballroom, according to UCLA Housing emails sent to students living in on-campus housing. Previously, the university offered rapid testing at Hedrick Fireside Lounge, Rieber Fireside Lounge, Covel Commons Grand Horizon Ballroom and De Neve Plaza Rooms A and B.

Increased positivity rates of COVID-19 tests on campus and throughout the region as well as staffing concerns prompted the university to extend online learning though Jan. 28, said Administrative Vice Chancellor Michael J. Beck and COVID-19 Response and Recovery Task Force co-chair Megan McEvoy in a campuswide email sent Friday. More than 1,200 UCLA community members tested positive for COVID-19 between Jan. 1 and Jan. 7, the email read.

With the extension of online instruction, the university is staggering when students living in on-campus housing are returning to Westwood to limit the spread of COVID-19, university administrators said in the email. Kisliuk added that around 60% of students living in on-campus housing have returned to their residence halls as of Jan. 9.

The campuswide email also said the university delayed in-person classes to give eligible members of the UCLA community more time to receive a booster shot and participate in UCLA testing requirements.

[Related: UCLA extends online instruction until Jan. 28 amid rising COVID-19 cases]

To mitigate the spread of COVID-19 on campus, the university requires all students participate in weekly testing, wear masks while indoors, and complete the online symptom survey before coming on campus each day, regardless of vaccination status. The university also encourages students on or around campus to limit travel, avoid large groups, and take a COVID-19 test twice weekly.

As part of a UC-wide vaccine policy, eligible students must submit proof of a COVID-19 vaccine booster before Jan. 18, UCLA administrators said in the campuswide email Friday, adding that employees are required to submit proof of a vaccine booster by Jan. 31.

As of Jan. 5, 120 students are in isolation because of positive COVID-19 tests, Kisliuk said. The university currently has 300 designated spaces for students to isolate and will continue to evaluate the positivity rate on campus to determine if more spaces will be needed, he said. Kisliuk added that UCLA can isolate an additional 1,100 students if necessary.

The university previously implemented a plan in December to house two or more positive-testing students per isolation room in expectation of a surge of cases. However, it has since reverted to a quarantine procedure of one student per room because of lower than expected positivity rates, Kisliuk said.

With lower than expected positivity rates and increased public health measures from the university, students are hopeful for a return to in-person instruction and student life.

“I feel like this quarter it’s really good that they’re holding you accountable that you have to test because I know last quarter it was kind of optional,” Zhou said.

​​Seo said he thinks the university is taking public health precautions that can help slow the spread of COVID-19. However, he added that he is looking forward to more of the campus reopening for normal operations.

“It’s definitely nice that there aren’t that many people,” Seo said. “At the same time, I definitely miss the full, open aspect of how it was last quarter.”

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Sydney Kovach | Campus Politics editor
Kovach is the 2021-2022 assistant News editor for the campus politics beat. She was previously a contributor for The Stack. Kovach is a fourth-year global studies student at UCLA.
Kovach is the 2021-2022 assistant News editor for the campus politics beat. She was previously a contributor for The Stack. Kovach is a fourth-year global studies student at UCLA.
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