COVID-19 testing resources vary across CSU campuses

With California State University campuses reporting varying numbers in COVID-19 cases, each university is taking different testing approaches to accommodate its needs and demands. While some universities are providing regular surveillance testing for students, others are not offering any on-campus testing at all.

Three out of the 23 CSU campuses — Humboldt State, San Diego State and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo — test students living in dorms. However, San Diego and San Luis Obispo, where large-scale outbreaks have been reported, are also testing students regularly throughout the term.

Six campuses, including Cal Poly Pomona, reserve testing for symptomatic students, whereas other campuses are opting to use their limited supply to regularly test students living on campus instead. Eleven other CSU campuses have no plans to offer testing from their health centers.

As off-campus positive cases continue to trickle in, some CPP students raised concerns over the lack of resources provided by the university.

Rami Hosny, a third-year computer information systems student, urged that testing should be available to all students regardless of their symptoms while taking into consideration the school’s testing capacity.

“I definitely do think that testing should be available for asymptomatic students as well,” Hosny said. “That would not only provide a greater scope and understanding of the cases at our school, but it would also serve to be effective for more than just a small group of symptomatic students.”

Differences in COVID-19 testing policies among the CSU campuses are determined by the number of positive cases, on-campus living arrangements and location.

According to Frances Teves, assistant vice president for the Office of Government and External Affairs and lead of the Safer Return Task Force, CPP has “one of the most conservative approaches in terms of the number of students on campus,” which reflects the restrictions mandated by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

With LA County remaining in Tier 1 of the state’s blueprint for economic recovery, indicating a high risk of widespread community transmission, CPP is facing stricter on-campus limitations than campuses in San Diego and San Luis Obispo whose counties report fewer COVID-19 cases.

Considering increases in daily cases and its rate of positive cases, LA County is failing to meet the requirements to transition into less restrictive tiers. Based on the county’s process, the earliest it may proceed could be Nov. 18, according to the Safer Return Task Force’s latest situation report.

This scenario, however, would be highly unlikely as the county is expecting a 49% increase in hospitalization, Teves added.

Despite CPP’s conservative approach, the university’s access to COVID-19 resources may be affected by enrollment changes. According to Joseph Simoneschi, associate vice president for Financial and Administrative Services, the Student Health Services is funded by student health fees, which are part of the mandatory auxiliary fees that students pay each semester.

Due to the university’s responsiveness to support the health center, Leticia Gutierrez-Lopez, associate vice president for Student Health and Wellbeing, said funding is not a concern at the moment.

“If we were asked by the public health department to change our practices, the university is committed to the well-being of the campus, so I’m not worried about that piece,” Gutierrez-Lopez added.

Although a sizable increase in fall enrollment boosted funding for the campus and its health center, Simoneschi confirmed that the Student Health Center’s budget would drop if the enrollment rate were to decline in the following years.

While 11 of the 23 CSU campuses saw a decrease in fall enrollment, CPP reported a system-high 6.4% increase in enrollment, according to EdSource.

If the health services face unexpected costs after a decline in its budget, the university hopes to potentially use the funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act to provide financial support, Simoneschi added.

(Feature Image courtesy of Tom Wolf) 

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