Routine COVID testing at The University of Tennessee Chattanooga

By: Allyce Robinson

CHATTANOOGA, TN (  — The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga is participating in a random routine COVID test program. Each week 1,000 campus community members of students, faculty, and staff are randomly selected to be tested for COVID-19 by the Abbott BinaxNow rapid antigen tests. This only qualifies to those on campus or in on campus classes. Community members receive an email from The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga asking them to schedule an appointment to get tested on campus within a week. 

Kaley Newcomb, a student at UTC was chosen in the last week of February to participate in the routine testing. Newcomb stated, “I had no symptoms, have already had the virus, and they still did not accept my exemption waiver. I don’t think this process helps, most students are not even on campus and a lot have already had COVID.”  Participants that have been chosen may apply for an exemption if they are not currently on campus for any reason, have tested positive within the last 90 days, are showing signs of COVID and are in isolation, or have been exposed to COVID and are currently in quarantine. If one of these applies to someone chosen, they may complete a waiver request form by a certain date. They will then be notified if their exemption has been approved or declined. If they are not exempt participants must pick a time, schedule an appointment, and plan to spend around 30 minutes getting tested on campus. The participant must wait 15 minutes after being tested for their results, if negative they are free to go, if positive they must await further testing and actions. 

Emma Stacey, a nursing major at UTC has very different views than Newcomb. Stacey stated, “As a nursing student with in person classes throughout the week and clinicals once a week, I think that the routine testing is necessary to keep us safe and those around us safe. These are scary times and if a little extra caution with routine testing will save someone’s life, I think it is very necessary.” If a student fails to attend the testing and was not exempt, they will receive an email from the University saying the Office of Student Conduct will be notified and will take disciplinary action.

A study on routine Covid testing and its benefits was conducted and published by the National Institute of Health. This study found that there are direct correlations between routine testing and reducing outbreaks. So even though some community members may think that the routine testing is pointless, it is important to remember that we are in a time of uncertainty and everyone is trying their hardest to do what is best for the community as a whole. The routine testing is said to continue until the end of the semester. We are unsure at this time if it will continue in the fall.

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