UC Berkeley COVID-19 testing decreases, community reacts with concern

Infographic about covid testing over the fall semester
Clare Rickard/Staff

Related Posts

Since the start of the fall semester, testing across campus has nearly halved, according to UC Berkeley’s Coronavirus Dashboard. For undergraduates, testing is nearly half of what it was in August.

According to University Health Services spokesperson Tami Cate, campus testing requirements have become “less stringent,” largely because of the high vaccination rates among the campus community. Cate added that official health organizations do not recommend extremely stringent testing requirements.

“Neither the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nor the California Department of Public Health, nor our local public health department, nor the campus Public Health Committee that advises the campus Recovery Management Team recommend weekly testing for all students, or staff, or faculty,” Cate said in an email.

Current campus testing requirements are split between vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals, according to Cate. For those who are unvaccinated, the administration requires weekly testing. For those who are vaccinated and living on campus, monthly testing is required; for those who are vaccinated and living off campus, the first test must come within 180 days of the last test, followed by tests every 90 days.

Out of the unvaccinated members of campus who are required to test weekly, Cate said the university is seeing around 60% compliance. For individuals living in on-campus housing, the university is seeing around 85% compliance.

ASUC Academic Affairs Vice President James Weichert alleged campus administration “turned a blind eye” to testing.

“The picture now looks much different now than it did a month ago, but that still doesn’t absolve the campus and its responsibility to keep the students, staff and faculty safe,” Weichert said. “That’s something fundamentally campus dropped the ball on going back into in-person in August.”

Weichert added that despite efforts by the ASUC to push for more stringent testing requirements, the administration maintains its stance that it has followed through on its plans. Those plans, however, were put into place before campus became aware of the new risks posed by the delta variant, Weichert said.

ASUC Senator Amanda Hill said despite the high vaccination rates on campus, current testing guidelines are unable to give campus an accurate gauge on infection rates and affected students. Hill also emphasized the impact the low testing rates have on at-risk students.

“It’s very worrying, especially for disabled and immunocompromised students who, despite being vaccinated, may still feel a lot of adverse effects from COVID, some which may be lifelong,” Hill said. “There’s a lot of cases we’re not catching, especially when factoring in the normal cold rounds. People are like ‘oh it’s just a cold’ and are not getting tested, even though it may actually be COVID.”

Contact Christopher Ying at [email protected], and follow him on Twitter at @ChrisYingg.