Social distancing, safety guidelines allegedly not enforced at RSF testing facility

Photo of the RSF and sign for COVID surveillance testing
Gisselle Reyes/Staff
The Recreational Sports Facility COVID-19 testing center is monitored and regulated by University Health Services.

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Students at the Recreational Sports Facility, or RSF, COVID-19 testing center were seen standing without masks and about 3 feet apart, according to a Facebook post.

The post included an image of five students getting tested at one table inside the RSF while standing within almost 3 feet of each other, according to the post’s author, campus senior Devaki Dikshit. Dikshit, a former employee of The Daily Californian, added that the only directions provided were auditory and unclear, making the self-administered testing process slow and prone to mistakes.

“If you can’t follow directions, you have to retake the test with people with their masks off,” Dikshit said. “There were no written directions. It was all auditory and very easy to mess up, and very problematic for anyone with any sort of disability.”

All campus COVID-19 testing sites, whether they are for clinical testing or surveillance testing, are monitored and regulated by University Health Services, or UHS, according to UHS spokesperson Tami Cate. She added that students are required to wear masks at all times except when they are conducting the test, which typically takes less than five minutes.

Cate said outdoor testing sites such as the Durant Avenue site moved indoors due to the air quality, joining the screening site already located within the RSF Field House. All indoor sites are evaluated by Berkeley Environment, Health and Safety to ensure proper ventilation, enough space and adequate social distancing protocols, according to Cate.

“There is also signage reinforcing this requirement when they arrive at the testing site,” Cate said in an email. “When they are getting the self-swabbing instructions by a staff member, they are instructed to leave their mask on until the moment they need to temporarily remove their mask for the self-swabbing part.”

Despite UHS outlining particular steps to ensure student safety, the alleged lack of enforcement still makes testing an unsafe prospect for students, according to campus sophomore Srinidhi Seshradi. The Innovative Genomics Institute at UC Berkeley offers free asymptomatic testing through its Free Asymptomatic Saliva Testing study with stricter safety guidelines and protocols, Seshradi added.

One solution to increase safety at the indoor testing facilities, according to Dikshit, would be to enforce distancing guidelines and provide students with face guards to wear while administering their tests. In an ideal situation, Dikshit added, all testing would take place outside with clear instructions in multiple mediums to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 at the site and increase accessibility for students.

“Testing shouldn’t be inside in my opinion,” Dikshit said. “They should have had more safeguards in terms of distance in waiting lines that should be enforced. Sometimes it seems like they are operating under the false assumption that masks stop the spread completely.”

Contact Aditya Katewa at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @adkatewa1.