Is random coronavirus testing a solid approach to slowing the spread?

CSU pandemic response continues to issue random COVID-19 testing, but students are wondering how effective this part of the plan is

Cleveland State University has been randomly testing students for coronavirus since 2020. As the 2021-2022 academic school year moves along, speculation surrounding the school’s method of slowing the spread has grown.

Shortly following the release of a Sept. 3 video presentation featuring a message from Dr. Forrest Faison, an email about his resignation was sent to students and faculty Sept. 28.

Faison had one of the most informative voices touching on the COVID-19 situation at Cleveland State University. President Harlan Sands mentioned in his email that, “we are deeply appreciative of the work he has done to help guide us through the COVID-19 pandemic.”

For the time being, Dr. Sean Cannone of University Hospitals will take over as the lead policy advisor. Cannone’s efforts as a site medical director for the Wolstein Center’s mass vaccination clinic help give some explanation for his appointment to the position.

However, as the ball keeps rolling with administrative changes, one question remains. In all actuality, how affective is random COVID-19 testing in slowing the spread of the virus at CSU?

Answers can range from: it makes sure that students are not aimlessly effecting the immune systems of others to the value that it has in keeping count of total numbers.

But, if we are not sure of who comes in contact with the most people, inviting higher chances of contracting the virus, how does the infinite possibility of randomly selecting the same people multiple times help slow the spread?

Allyssa Brand-Bey is no exception to this large group of students who have been randomly selected for COVID testing.

The senior journalism major stated, “I did not expect to be selected again because they say it is all random.” She continued on, “My thinking was [being] 1 out of all of the current students that are on campus, a second time is not possible.”

With a current student body totaling over 15,000, the chance of one student being pulled multiple times throughout one semester would seem very low, but this happened to Brand-Bey.

“But I ended up being selected three times [just] last semester,” Brand-Bey said. “I just received my first selection for this semester the other day.”

This means that they have used three different test kits for one person out of over 15,000. What is the purpose of following through with this?

Brand-Bey assumes that, “it is to try and keep the campus safe from COVID-19.” But she added, “I feel as though if everyone isn’t being tested, how are we sure the campus is safe? Especially if people like me have been tested more than once.”

Adding to the question asked earlier, this point clarifies that the assumption that not every student will be tested stands on some form of evidence.

Brand-Bey voiced her opinion about a better option for the school.

“Going forward, they should make the decision for the greater good of the campus,” Brand-Bey said. “I think for now they could implement COVID testing for everyone, every two weeks, or something that can prove safely for everyone. And also better cleaning protocols.”

Another senior journalism major, Courtney Byrnes, also proposed that CSU could approach the virus differently.

“I’ve heard of other schools that have mandatory testing for all students every week,” Byrnes said. “And while this might not be possible for CSU, I think more needs to be done to slow the spread, especially being a majority commuter school with students traveling back and forth.”

Even if this approach may be difficult for CSU to handle, an attempt may at least prove to be less questionable in the eyes of students.

Like Brand-Bey, Byrnes has also been tested a total of three times in one semester.

“I was enrolled in a photography class that the professor moved online right before the semester started,” Byrnes said. “But it still showed up as an in-person class, which is why I was eligible to be picked. I could have easily gotten out of it, but I was still occasionally coming to campus and didn’t mind getting tested.”

What may seem puzzling is that if Byrnes chose not to be tested because of her photography class being online, she would have still had a higher chance of being selected three times based on randomness than most students do of being picked once.

Byrnes believes that one highly controversial proposal would be a more efficient way of slowing the spread, versus the system of randomness currently in place.

In her opinion, “if CSU does not go with a mandate,” they should, “at the very least up the testing more and work out why it seems so many students are picked multiple times while others have not been selected once.”

Ultimately, it appears the CSU administration has some ongoing unsettled negotiations revolving around COVID-19. Figuring out how to evenly distribute tests may just be one more debate among each party.

Byrnes gave her final thoughts about the effectiveness of random testing by inferring about its purpose.

“I think the reason for random testing is to sample a small, hopefully different, portion of the campus each week to get an idea of the rate of cases on campus,” Byrnes said.

There could be many of reasons for the school’s continuation of random testing. If you’re a student at CSU who is curious about its purpose or the COVID-19 protocol, reach out to The Cauldron with your thoughts.

As data seems to be loosely tracked on the COVID-19 Dashboard, hopefully explanations for the current protocol’s steps will soon be available… because students have questions.

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