Butler updates COVID-19 testing protocols

National shortage of COVID-19 tests impacts Butler’s testing on campus. Graphic courtesy of montagehealth.org. 

GABI MORANDO | STAFF REPORTER | gmorando@butler.edu 

Record high case numbers and a shortage of rapid tests across the country bring changes to the availability of COVID-19 testing on campus. Unlike last semester, only students who show symptoms of COVID-19 are able to be tested on campus at the Health and Recreation Center, HRC. In addition, Brent Rockwood, vice president, chief of staff, said the university has made the decision to temporarily suspend the weekly testing of unvaccinated students to give testing priority to symptomatic students no matter their vaccination status. 

The first update of the COVID-19 dashboard this semester came out Jan. 14 and showed 123 positive cases among students, and 13 among employees. 

Even with the limited testing options for students, both Rockwood and Scott Peden, executive director, student well-being, are optimistic that the HRC is sufficiently supplied to meet the need of symptomatic students.  

“We have felt the pressures of a lack of supply of testing, and that’s not something that’s unique to Butler,” Rockwood said. “Overall we feel confident that we’re in a good condition with supplies that we do have, that we can continue testing where it’s needed most to assist students.”

Peden explained that there are two options for students to be examined in the HRC. If students prefer to have a medical evaluation, they can call to make an appointment to be seen by a medical professional in Health Services. If the medical provider deems a test appropriate, they can administer a rapid or PCR test.

Peden said that on the other hand, if students want a test because they show symptoms of COVID-19, they can walk downstairs to room 001 of the HRC to get tested without an appointment, Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. 

“I think it’s really important that the students know that [testing is] available,” Peden said. “I would hate for students to spread the message that testing isn’t available or assume that we don’t have the supplies, because we actually do.”

Butler stated in an email sent Jan. 4 that the weekly testing of unvaccinated students would continue into 2022. Although the email said “unvaccinated people have the highest risk of contracting COVID-19,” Rockwood said the university recently made the decision to suspend the testing of unvaccinated students to direct the supply of tests to those who need them most. It is unclear when the weekly testing of unvaccinated students will resume.

Rockwood said that the university is not requiring it, but is encouraging unvaccinated students to test at off-campus locations. Any students or employees who show symptoms or test positive are required to complete the Health Reporting Form

Sophomore political science major, Emma Burke, tried to get tested at the HRC this past week after one of her roommates tested positive for COVID-19.  Without symptoms, Burke was initially told she could not be tested.  After informing the technician that she was immuno-compromised, however, Burke was administered a test that later came back as negative. While understanding the high demand for tests nationally, Burke said she wishes the HRC had more testing availability for students no matter their condition. 

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