UWEC testing site reaches capacity at start of semester

Some students unable to schedule COVID-19 antigen test for several days


Ta'Leah Van Sistine

In Zorn Arena, students, faculty and staff wait to receive their COVID-19 test results in socially distanced chairs. ©Ta’Leah Van Sistine2021

When Autumn Cernohous, a third-year student at UW-Eau Claire, went to schedule a COVID-19 antigen test at Zorn Arena before the spring semester started, the next available time slot was in four days.

“That is definitely a concern,” Cernohous said.

Some UW-Eau Claire students weren’t able to book their required COVID-19 tests for several days at the start of the spring semester because the testing site reached capacity.

Now in the second month of the semester, however, there is less required testing for students, so Grace Crickette, vice chancellor for finance and administration, said there are more slots available to students for scheduling their weekly or biweekly tests.

Crickette said the capacity for the Zorn Arena testing site on Monday through Friday is 1,200 tests a day. This number is based on the available staffing at the site and “anticipated usage,” she said.

On-campus students received an email from Quincy Chapman, the director of housing and residence life, on Jan. 14, saying, “All students living in university housing need to take two antigen tests (two to three days apart) the first week on campus.”

The email also said on-campus students’ first COVID-19 test should be taken on the first day they arrive in Eau Claire.

Another email all students received from the integrated marketing and communications department said off-campus students would be required to get tested once every other week this semester.

Crickette said because the demand for a COVID-19 test was higher at the start of the semester, the slots filled up.

“Which is a good thing,” Crickette said. “That means a lot of people were being tested.”

On Feb. 1 — the first day of the spring semester — UW-Eau Claire’s COVID-19 dashboard shows that 1,731 COVID-19 antigen tests were taken that day.

However, Crickette clarified the capacity was not exceeded that day, but rather the data for Feb. 1 includes the number of tests that were taken on Jan. 30 and 31 as well. Crickette said UW-Eau Claire offered antigen testing at Zorn Arena through the weekends of Jan. 23 and 24 and Jan. 30 and 31 to attempt to accommodate for the higher number of tests that would be requested.

The dashboard’s graph of total and positive COVID-19 tests taken at Zorn Arena have also not reached the 1,200 test capacity since Feb. 1. Crickette said this is because some appointment slots don’t get filled and others get filled by students and employees who ultimately don’t show up to their appointments.

Crickette said there are roughly 600 slots per day available to on-campus students, 400 slots per day to off-campus students and 200 to faculty and staff on Monday through Friday.

Cernohous said she no longer has to get tested through the university because she gets tested every week for her new job.

Even so, she said the scheduling issue at the beginning of the semester, with on-campus testing at Zorn Arena, was worrisome.

“Even if you’re not symptomatic but questioning (if you have COVID-19), sometimes you don’t have the time to wait (for a test),” Cernohous said.

Students who are routinely tested for work are able to count those as their required university COVID-19 tests, Crickette verified. To be compliant, though, she said students still need to log their test results in the Blugold Protocol app.

Updates to the Blugold Protocol app

Through her new job, Cernohous said she was able to get the COVID-19 vaccine at the beginning of February, so she became curious as to why there wasn’t a section in the Blugold Protocol app where students could log their vaccinations.

“The university should add it soon, or consider adding it soon because a lot of students are getting vaccinated if they work in health care positions,” Cernohous said.

Kim Frodl, the medical director of Student Health Service at UW-Eau Claire, said there is a new update for the app. The update, which just happened this week, includes a section where students can log when they received their first and second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“Then we’ll be able to keep track of the percentage of our campus population that has been vaccinated,” Frodl said.

In the same update for the app, Frodl said students now receive reminders to log their COVID-19 test results, so they are held accountable for the university’s testing requirement. She said the reminder is similar to the reminder that is sent to students when they need to log their symptoms in the app.

Frodl said students who receive the COVID-19 vaccine still need to get tested and wear a mask on campus.

“We want people to get immunized, but you could potentially still get (COVID-19),” Frodl said. “A lot of times, if you do get it after the vaccine, you might not have symptoms, but you potentially could spread it, so you do have to get tested after getting your vaccine.”