58.2% of Bates Students Say They Have Never Missed a COVID-19 Test: COVID-19 Testing Compliance Fall 2021

According to an anonymous survey conducted by The Bates Student, 58.2% of the 67 students who completed the survey have never missed a COVID-19 test. Another 23.9% said they miss about one test per academic year, and 10.4% usually miss one test a semester. The remaining 7.5% usually misses about two to three tests per semester.

Elizabeth LaCroix/The Bates Student

Editor’s Note: Class year was not accounted for in this survey.

Before the start of the 2021-2022 academic year, students were required to sign the Bates “Public Health Agreement & Acknowledgement of Shared Responsibility and Risk,” which outlines what is required for students to return and remain on campus. “In light of the continued presence of COVID-19, Bates College asks all students to do their part to protect themselves and other members of the campus and surrounding communities,” the agreement stated.

The agreement lists various restrictions and policies that students must adhere to if they are implemented by the college. This includes that students must fully participate in population screen testing for COVID-19 every Tuesday and Thursday.

“Compliance is not optional, although unfortunately, some students have interpreted it that way,” Josh MacIntosh, the Vice President for Campus Life, told The Student. “If a student does miss a test, there is a make-up test the following day and the case is referred to the Office of Community Standards.”

According to the “Compliance with COVID-19 Testing” published on Sept. 13, a student who misses their first test will receive a warning email from the COVID-19 Testing Center. The second missed test will result in a referral to the Office of Community Standards with a formal warning. A meeting with a college judicial officer will be required after the student misses their third test — which will have the likely outcome of probation — and the fourth missed test will most likely result in a minimum one-semester suspension.

In light of the consequences for missing a COVID-19 test above, students have developed various methods for remembering to get tested. Many students (41.8%) said they rely on the email reminders from the Testing Center. Setting personal reminders on their phones was the second most used method at 31.8%, closely followed by not using any method (29.9%) and writing it down in their notebook or planner (17.9%).

Respondents also gave other methods of remembering, such as receiving reminders from friends or going to the testing center together. Others said that they used the Google Calendar notifications or noted the consistent routine as helpful as a reminder.

“I get tested at the same time each day after my [Tuesday and Thursday] class so it’s an easy routine,” one respondent said.

Another respondent expressed frustration after arriving at the Testing Center two minutes before 1:00 p.m. “I have classes on Wednesdays from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. so I had to miss my classes to get a makeup test for a missing test … In my opinion, I think there is a lot of room for improvement. Maybe changing the location could make time and accessibility easier too,” the student noted.

The last testing slot available is 12:45 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

In addition to this respondent, many other students suggested in the survey to move the Testing Center to a more central location on campus. “Move the Testing Center to upstairs Commons so we can have an ice rink. It’s also closer to the central campus,” one respondent wrote. Restoring the ice rink was also mentioned by another respondent.

A different respondent commented on the punishments for missing tests.“I understand that testing is important, but make-up testing times should be available without consequence for the first two missed tests. Most of the time when people don’t get tested, they simply forget and are not trying to avoid the test in any way,” they wrote.

Amherst College has struggled this academic year to maintain their testing compliance percentages each week.

On Nov. 3, Amherst College sent an email out to students reporting that testing compliance had fallen below 90% that week. “If Wednesday/Thursday testing compliance does not bring compliance above 90% for this week, we will need to reintroduce one or more COVID-19 protocols,” the email read.

Some of the COVID-19 protocols Amherst threatened to restore include increased travel restrictions, reducing their dining hall capacity to 50% and reintroducing more event restrictions.

Amherst has not restored any of these COVID-19 protocols since this email was released.

With the exception that students are required to wear either a KN95 mask or double mask in academic spaces that are operating at 100% occupancy, Amherst has many of the same current COVID-19 policies as Bates. However, students at Amherst were not required to sign an agreement specific to COVID-19 protocols. Students are instead bound by the honor code and any violations of this code leads to their referral to the Community Standards Office.

The Student asked McIntosh if stricter COVID-19 protocols would be reinstated if testing compliance falls below 90% at Bates. “As always, if public health conditions worsen (or improve) we will adjust our testing policy accordingly,” McIntosh said.

The survey also asked students about their general feelings and stress about contracting COVID-19 during this academic year.

A total of 73.1% of the respondents said they were less worried about contracting COVID-19 this year compared to last. 13.4% said they felt the same as last year, 11.9% said they were never worried and 1.5% (one respondent) said they were more worried about getting COVID-19 this year.

Elizabeth LaCroix

The Student also asked students how often they checked the Bates COVID-19 Dashboard. The results depicted almost identical percentages for those who checked the Dashboard weekly, monthly, one to three times a semester and never. Of the 67 respondents, 26.9% said they check the Dashboard one to three times a semester, 25.4% never check the Dashboard, another 25.4% check the Dashboard weekly and 22.4% check the Dashboard monthly.

Elizabeth LaCroix

One respondent said they were “far less worried” now that they are fully vaccinated. Another respondent wrote that they “think it’s a widely shared sentiment that people were less so afraid [last academic year] of catching COVID-19 than they were the policies from Bates.”

Despite the survey results that suggest students are far less fearful of contracting COVID-19 this academic year than they were during 2020-2021, students are generally good about complying to the COVID-19 testing policy. The latter assumption is also supported by the results of The Student’s survey that showed that over half of the respondents had never missed a COVID-19 test.