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It’s too soon to pause surveillance testing

The following reflects the majority opinion of the editorial board. 

This past Wednesday, Nov. 3, students received an email from Miami University’s COVID Response Team that announced a pause in surveillance testing for both students and employees. 

The factors involved in making this decision included; evaluating regional hospitalization rates and the rate of transmission and the number of positive cases. If a significant change in any of these variables were to occur, the university would consider unpausing. 

Another factor taken into consideration for this decision was Miami’s 92% vaccination rate for students and 80% for employees.

This announcement feels like a performative benchmark or “reward” for the school community’s high vaccination rates. But more importantly, it means the university is going back on its word. 

Miami’s COVID Response Team email sent on Sept. 15 states, “​​Students and employees who are not vaccinated will be required to participate in the University's testing program and will be required to quarantine for 10 days if they are determined to have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.”

So, why get rid of testing for this community now? There are five weeks left in the semester. People will be traveling home and back to campus for Thanksgiving break, and the decision to pause surveillance testing now feels random and reckless. 

Our community is still at risk. Those who got their first dose in the days leading up to the Oct. 25 deadline won’t have the full effect of the vaccine until two weeks after their second dose – which isn’t due until Nov. 22. 

The point of surveillance testing is to surveil. To make sure that asymptomatic community members are not unknowingly spreading the virus, and those within close contact of people testing positive are kept safe from the virus. 

The university’s given excuse is that most positive test results are coming through diagnostic testing. This makes sense. Diagnostic testing is for people already presenting COVID-like symptoms. 

Pausing surveillance testing puts the responsibility back onto the student body to self-test and self-report their results, which will leave a lot of room for error in knowing the real number of positive cases. 

This also makes it much harder to track accurate COVID data within our population. It is now difficult to know when the university should “unpause” testing or not, since a spike in cases, which would be one of the logical reasons for doing so, is now harder to detect or predict.

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This pause feels like a head-in-the-sand approach to testing and knowing the true state of COVID in our community. It’s willful ignorance, and it has the potential to do so much more harm than good.

Yes, Miami University has a high vaccination rate, but Butler County does not. Just a little over 53% of the population have at least begun the vaccination process.

In our last editorial, we asked the administration to make these decisions with extreme care and consideration. This feels rushed and inconsiderate. 

Unpausing surveillance testing is imperative to keeping us on a progressive and well-informed track.

Diagnostic testing won’t provide an accurate reflection of the state of our community. The population that would be subjected to surveillance testing is the smallest it’s ever been. Small enough to be rolled into testing centers that are already operating on campus. 

This is a cop-out. It’s not too late to opt-in and unpause.