DePaul offers free at-home rapid tests


Quentin Blais

A student worker grabs one of the free rapid tests that is offered in the DePaul Health Promotion & Wellness (HPW) Office. Rapid tests are also available in the Student Affairs office on the 14th floor of the Lewis Center in the Loop campus.

Senior Samantha Harris pushed through the rotating doors of the DePaul Center and followed the signs pointing to DePaul’s free Covid-19 PCR testing site. Once she got to the bottom of the escalators, she was greeted by DePaul student workers running the site.

This was not Harris’ first time using DePaul’s testing site. She used the service multiple times last school year in both Lincoln Park and the Loop.

When Harris walked into the DePaul Center concourse to get tested over summer break, she did not know that she would be one of the last DePaul community members to get a free PCR test from DePaul.

June 30, the day Harris got tested, was the last day the Covid-19 testing site was open.

DePaul began offering free saliva-based PCR tests in January to DePaul students, faculty and staff. PCR, or polymerase chain reaction, tests are highly accurate in diagnosing infectious diseases like Covid-19.

Harris went with her roommate to get a PCR test. She was shocked that the service was ending.

“When we got to the testing site, the staff let us know that today was the last day of testing,” Harris wrote in an email to The DePaulia. “When we asked if they would be returning for the fall, they said they weren’t sure.”

This was answered on Aug. 18, less than a month before the start of Fall Quarter when DePaul released its Fall Campus Health Update. The update unveiled DePaul’s new Covid-19 safety response, including the discontinuation of free on-campus PCR testing in favor of rapid tests.

Maya Oclassen

DePaul adapts its Covid-19 response “as the circumstances of the pandemic change,” according to the update.

“DePaul bases its COVID-19 response on state and local requirements, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance, and input from the university’s Community Health Team and medical advisor from AMITA Health,” the university update said. “We adapt our measures as the circumstances of the pandemic change.”

Harris however wrote that staff told her it was the last day of testing “due to a cut in funding.”

When asked about the financial claims, DePaul said that federal funding was one of the many factors in choosing rapid tests instead of continuing PCR testing.

 “Due to the increased availability of at-home tests, changing guidance on surveillance testing from the CDC, and the end of federal funding through the CARES Act for COVID response, DePaul opted to offer at-home tests instead of on-campus, PCR testing,” said Mary Hansen, a university spokesperson.

Over the pandemic, DePaul received federal funding through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act. A part of the CARES Act was the Higher Education Economic Relief fund, HEERF, which allocates funds on an institutional and student level.

DePaul received over $76.2 million from the CARES Act for institutional and student relief, according to the U.S. Department of Education. 

In the spirit of Take Care DePaul, the university has offered an alternative free testing method for students. DePaul is providing rapid tests to replace the PCR testing sites, due to the end of the CARES Act.

Students can pick up rapid tests at the Lincoln Park campus in the Health Promotion and Wellness (HPW) office located in suite 302 of the Student Center. Rapid tests can be picked up in the Loop campus in the Student Affairs office located on the 14th floor of the Lewis Center.

Students can take up to two rapid tests per visit, according to Tyler Wurst, the director of Health, Promotion and Wellness (HPW).

“HPW has a supply of tests intended to assist students who may not have the resources available to them to purchase tests kits or access testing from medical providers,” Wurst wrote in an email to The DePaulia.

Despite the university offering free rapid tests, Wurst recommends that students seek out PCR tests instead as rapid tests are less accurate.

“We also encourage students to seek out their medical provider or local pharmacy, Walgreens or CVS, to get a PCR test when possible,” Wurst wrote. “The rapid test is less accurate and there is a greater chance of a false negative.”

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends testing for Covid-19 right away if you have symptoms. Those who are exposed to Covid-19 but do not show symptoms should wait at least five full days after exposure before testing. Chicago is at a low-risk Covid-19 spread level with 372 average daily reported cases.

The World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a press conference earlier this month that the end of the pandemic is near. He encouraged everyone to keep up their efforts to combat the virus.

“We are not there yet, but the end is in sight,” Ghebreyesus said. “Now is the time to run harder and make sure we cross the line and reap the rewards of all our hard work.”

Connect with Lily Lowndes: @LilyILowndes | [email protected]