Rutgers has not been allowing fully vaccinated students and employees to receive coronavirus disease (COVID-19) testing as part of its weekly testing program, according to the University’s testing page. Several students shared their thoughts on this decision and the difficulties of finding testing at the University as fully vaccinated individuals.
Some students like Sophia Rosahl, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, have already had trouble navigating these new testing protocols.
Rosahl said that they have wanted to get tested twice, once after they began experiencing symptoms and again, after their former roommate contracted COVID-19. They said they initially contacted Rutgers Student Health Services to get tested but were then redirected to nearby commercial pharmacies like Rite Aid.
In both situations, it was difficult to quickly locate a testing site on-campus or in the surrounding areas, especially one that offers rapid testing, Rosahl said. They eventually got tested at two sites but had to arrange their own transportation and were unsure whether the testing would be covered by their insurance.
“This semester was the first time I had a (COVID-19) scare, so maybe I wasn't looking in the right places, but it all seemed unnecessarily complicated,” they said.
Julia Meints, a School of Environments and Biological Sciences junior, said that she and her roommate sought to get tested after they came in contact with someone living with an individual who tested positive for COVID-19. After they both developed cold symptoms, they wanted to get tested as soon as possible to see whether they should still attend in-person classes.
When researching testing options, Meints said she did not even attempt to get tested at Rutgers because its testing policies excluded fully vaccinated individuals. Instead, she and her roommate traveled to three different pharmacies and eventually bought at-home COVID-19 testing kits.
As an immunocompromised person with a greater risk of developing more severe symptoms from COVID-19, Meints said she felt it was urgent to know if she contracted the virus so she could consult her doctor about next steps. She said the University should consider how fully vaccinated students may still find themselves in emergencies like hers.
“I think Rutgers should have testing available for these emergency situations many of my peers have been experiencing despite being vaccinated,” Meints said.
Zoe Reich, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, said that she would like to get tested before she visits her family but will have to go somewhere other than Rutgers due to the new policies.
She said that she hopes the University changes its stance on testing to stop students visiting home or other locations and unknowingly spreading the virus. Reich said the possibility of breakthrough cases worries her and that reduced testing makes her believe that she does not have a clear picture of the state of COVID-19 on campus.
University spokesperson Kevin Lorincz said that Rutgers only reports COVID-19 cases and positivity rates based on the tests it administers. While they continue to report this data on the University’s COVID-19 Dashboard, emails regarding testing data have not recently been sent out as they have in the past.
During the week of Sept. 13, 11 Rutgers students were in isolation and one was quarantined, Lorincz said. These 12 students are fully vaccinated and are currently housed in University residential areas designated for isolation.
While the University does not allow fully vaccinated students and employees to get tested as part of their weekly COVID-19 testing program, these individuals can get tested on their own or through Rutgers Student Health Services if approved, according to the Student Health webpage.
If approved for University testing, individuals will be directed to a COVID-19 test vending machine or Student Health Center, according to the page.
Rosahl said that while they feel protected from the effects of contracting COVID-19 due to vaccination, they still worry about contracting the virus and experiencing severe symptoms, especially since there is still much more to learn about the virus itself.
They said the reduction of testing at Rutgers has made them feel less safe on campus and they acknowledge how that might have an even bigger impact on immunocompromised individuals.
“Testing would definitely help mitigate my fears, because it would give me more information,” Rosahl said. “As someone with anxiety, I've found that one of the best antidotes to fear is information.”