Penn State’s Pre-Arrival Testing More Important Than Ever

As move-in week finally approaches, students are gearing up to return to campus after the longest summer vacation on record. However, in addition to packing clothes and stuffing cars, approximately 30,000 Penn Staters will undergo coronavirus testing before they return.

As we speak, about 24,000 oh-so-lucky students living in “high-risk” coronavirus hot spots are in the middle of receiving their saliva tests in the mail. As one of those fortunate individuals, I wasn’t sure exactly what to make of it at first. I found myself asking many questions, ranging from “Would these tests be reliable?” to “What if I test positive?”

While I had my many doubts, I was surprised to see Penn State employ such an efficient system that quickly and effectively collected my sample and gave me results within a few days. The system wasn’t without hiccups, though. The messaging was a little ominous, some shipments were delayed due to inclement weather, and spitting into a tube in front of a stranger on Zoom isn’t exactly the best way to spend a weekday afternoon.

Was at-home testing perfect? Absolutely not. Did it get the job done? Yes, and that’s what matters.

I’m sure there were a few folks out there who didn’t have as smooth an experience as me. Maybe they needed to hang out in the waiting room for a while and kill time until a supervisor was ready. Maybe their email got sent into the spam folder, never to be seen again. Or maybe they weren’t psyched to conjure up every ounce of saliva in their body, spit it into a plastic tube, and send it out in the mail.

With every day featuring a new challenge or obstacle to overcome, it’s important we learn to adapt to the “new normal,” even if that includes spitting in tubes on Zoom. Earlier this summer, Penn State announced it’ll randomly test a few hundred students, faculty, and staff each day this semester. Although testing can be is bothersome, it’s ultimately a key factor in keeping students safe on campus. Even if we aren’t on campus for long, taking part in testing gives us the best chance of staying.

In hindsight after taking my test, I realize Penn State students are pretty damn lucky. Not every college and university has the resources to ship thousands of tests across the country (free of charge for students, mind you) or even bring students back to campus in the first place.

Although some decisions are bone-headed and head-scratching, administrators are ultimately working to put procedures into place that’ll keep students safe on campus. However, it’s up to us to make sure they’re effective.

If Penn State students work together and take testing seriously, we’ll have the best chance of staying safe and making the most what’ll surely be the weirdest semester on record.

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About the Author

Alysa Rubin

Alysa was Onward State's visual editor. She's one of many "just outside of Philly" folks at Penn State and yes, she's an obnoxious Philly sports fan. Alysa loves her camera, hiking, a good soft pretzel, and eating her way through Wawa. She's also a proud mom to a cat named Comet. Follow @arubin241 on Twitter to keep up with what she sees through her lens (and for a funny retweet or two).

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