Preventing a Western situation starts with more on-campus testing resources

covid testing centre
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‘Wuck Festern’ is a well-known Queen’s mantra. But with students continuing to ignore public health guidelines, Queen’s is on track to follow in Western’s footsteps with an outbreak of its own. Instead of waiting, we need to act to prevent a similar situation now.

Earlier this week, a Western University testing trailer reached full capacity after five students tested positive for COVID-19. That number has since increased to 28.

Queen’s recently opened its own testing centre on campus. But with limited resources, The Journal Editorial Board worries a Western situation here in Kingston isn’t far off.

The Mitchell Hall testing centre will be by appointment only, with 50 to 60 slots available each day between 5 and 8 p.m. The centre has temporarily extended its hours for this weekend, and will operate Thursday, September 17 through Saturday, September 19, with a mix of by-appointment and walk-in hours.  

Scheduled appointments will hopefully mitigate lines that could spread COVID-19 further, though the limited time slots are worrying.

With roughly 2,000 students living in residence, Queen’s testing centre hardly seems equipped for an on-campus outbreak. For each person who tests positive, there’s likely an exponential number of people who’ve been in contact with that person and will need to be tested as well, including the countless staff members who interact with these students each day.

Queen’s made the decision to open residences and bring first-year students back to campus this fall. The University has a responsibility to start preparing for an outbreak now. Instead of waiting to increase testing capacities until there’s demand for it, the University must start bettering its facility now or, at the very least, set up a contingency plan and clearly communicate it.

If Queen’s doesn’t, students will inevitably make the trek to Leon’s Centre downtown and get tested there, creating potential for an overload of Kingston’s testing abilities.

First-year students aren’t Kingston’s burden to bear—they’re Queen’s responsibility, and the University needs to start acting like it.

Of course, upper-year students living off-campus are a different story. With remote classes, the University hasn’t forced anyone to return to Kingston this fall. It even encouraged students coming from out of town to get tested before arrival.

Despite their affiliation with Queen’s, upper-years aren’t the University’s responsibility. If there’s an outbreak off-campus, students getting tested won’t just overload Queen’s facility, but Kingston’s, too.

Students partying right now need to be mindful of who they’re impacting. Testing centres shouldn’t replace the tried-and-true methods of wearing masks and obeying physical distancing protocols. If you’re going to ignore them, at least keep your bubble small.

In the meantime, the University and Queen’s students alike need come to terms with the longevity of this virus; it’s not going away anytime soon, and an outbreak here in Kingston is likely inevitable.

If we want to ‘Wuck Festern,’ we need to do what Western didn’t and prepare for the worst. That means both obeying public health orders and bolstering our testing resources before it’s too late.

Journal Editorial Board

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