Covid-19 testing to come to DePaul, some students say it isn’t enough


Eric Henry

The statue of John J. Egan, located outside of the Lincoln Park Student Center, wearing a mask.

As DePaul University plans to increase in-person class options this coming summer and fall quarters, DePaul is introducing a surveillance Covid-19 testing process, but students remain disappointed in the schools Covid-19 response.

DePaul will launch a surveillance Covid-19 testing program this February with a limited number of students as a trial for a full-scale testing program. Students selected for the testing program will be enrolled in on-campus courses and at a higher risk of Covid-19 exposure. 

Information about where and when the testing will take place will be communicated with the students selected for the surveillance program this February. Testing will take place through an outside vendor and DePaul will not be paying for the Covid-19 tests — students will be billed for testing through their own insurance plans. 

“The testing will be performed by an outside vendor and billed to the students’ insurance providers,” said Cheryl Hover, associate director of emergency management at DePaul. “Arrangements can be made for the university to cover the cost for students who do not have health insurance.”

The tests are going to be polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests that utilize a nasal swab that is less invasive than some upper respiratory swabs used in other Covid-19 tests. The test results will be provided to students within 48 hours on an online portal. 

Some students have been struggling with finding testing in Chicago as there are limited appointment times and initially there was no Covid-19 testing program available through DePaul. Eventually, DePaul changed course by implementing a mail-in testing program; however, some students claim that it is still difficult to get access to this program since you have to have been exposed to or have symptoms of Covid-19. 

DePaul’s mail-in testing and the new addition of the surveillance testing program are not enough to satisfy all DePaul students. 

“I am still disappointed in the speed of the progress,” said DePaul sophomore Amber Gray. “Testing should’ve been the first thing accomplished, but it is still extremely hard to get a test at DePaul.”

Gray said that every student that wants a test should have access, regardless of whether the student is enrolled in the surveillance program, has been exposed to Covid-19 or has Covid-19 symptoms. 

Despite the new testing program, DePaul as a community will need to incorporate new habits in its academic culture, because while testing does help track the spread of Covid-19, it does not eliminate it.

“I think that we first have to remember that testing is not a preventive to Covid infections and alone is not the answer to be able to come back to campus,” said Craig Klugman, professor of health sciences and head of the university’s Covid Response Team. “The best things we can do as a community are wash our hands, maintain physical distance and wear masks.”

Klugman continued to compare DePaul’s reopening process to stacking slices of swiss cheese — one must fill the holes with other preventative slices.

“You have these areas that are solid and areas that are holes,” he said. “By having many layers, you can minimize — but not eliminate — the holes [by] stacking together which is [an opportunity] for…one or more [of these] techniques [to] slow down or prevent infection. By having campus mostly remote we have one very strong layer. With public health education, masking and washing, we have other layers. When we meet in person, testing adds a layer — that is not as preventive as remote meeting, but helps mitigate the exposure.”

DePaul currently has several precautions put in place on campus to reduce the spread of Covid-19 — such as hand sanitizer stations set up throughout campus, sign out of library and Holtschneider Performance Center facilities to allow proper cleaning practices and the use of the CampusClear app. 

Despite these efforts by the university, students remain disappointed due to the lack of student voice in Covid-19-related decisions. 

“The problem that lies in the fact that [not all] students are being heard or consulted,” Gray said. “The administration has no idea what it’s like to be a student at this time and should reach out for help and advice.” 

DePaul’s Covid response is falling short compared to other major Chicago universities such as the University of Illinois at Chicago, Columbia College of Chicago and the University of Chicago. For example, the University of Chicago said in an internal email that the university intends to get all eligible members of its community vaccinated by Jan. 31, at no cost to students or faculty. 

DePaul has announced that they will send out a survey to staff, faculty and student employees in the coming weeks about vaccination and their interest in receiving and ability to get the Covid-19 vaccine.