While COVID-19 testing at Binghamton University has expanded to offer more tests for students both on and off-campus, some students living off campus this semester have encountered difficulties when attempting to get tested at on-campus testing centers.
Testing for students randomly selected in the University’s semester-long surveillance process occurs at Old Union Hall, but those wishing to be tested of their own volition are instructed to contact Decker Student Health Services Center. There, testing is only available for students with active COVID-19 symptoms.
For Madeleine MacLean, a senior majoring in political science who lives off campus, this meant she had to be tested elsewhere when her friend received a positive result after being chosen for on-campus surveillance testing.
“Since I had been in her apartment multiple times that week, I called [Decker Student Health Services Center], and they told me that since I was an off-campus student, that I needed to go through the [New York State (NYS) Department of Health],” MacLean said. “I called the [NYS Department of Health], and the soonest that I could get tested was that Saturday morning, so several days from [the initial phone call], and it was for the site at [BU] that’s through the [NYS Department of Health].”
The COVID-19 testing site at BU that is run through the NYS Department of Health is located at Lot ZZ South.
On the day of her appointment, Maclean was unable to go through with the testing because she had arrived on foot.
“Saturday morning I went there and I walked over to the testing site and I was stopped by a guy in a military uniform and he told me that I could only get tested if I was in a vehicle, but I don’t have a vehicle,” Maclean said. “So I told him that and that this was where the [NYS Department of Health] told me to go, and he told me that I could get an Uber or a taxi, but then I was potentially putting the Uber driver or the passengers after me at risk, so I didn’t want to do that. Then, I was able, through [Decker Student Health Services Center], to get a physician’s order to be tested at [United Health Services (UHS)] walk-in clinic, so I was able to get tested through there.”
This was four days after Maclean’s friend tested positive for COVID-19.
Helena Miller, a senior majoring in economics who lives off campus, also experienced difficulty when attempting to get tested on campus.
“On Tuesday, I tried to make an appointment with [Decker Student Health Services Center],” Miller wrote in an email. “Because [Decker Student Health Services] was packed with both virtual and in-person appointments, the people who were there were unable to see me. So, I walked to the [UHS].”
There, Miller was diagnosed with a sinus infection but was told to get a COVID-19 test in the interest of safety.
“There was a trend of students who had caught [COVID-19] through having a cold; so, they wanted to check to see if I was okay [or] if I needed further assistance,” Miller wrote. “Well, it turned out that I was able to get a COVID-19 test [on campus] right after I ate lunch at Moghul. [Twenty] minutes later, I found out that I tested negative.”
A third off-campus student, who wished to remain anonymous, did not have a vehicle but wanted to avoid public transport to avoid potentially spreading the virus.
“Back in the beginning of September, I wound up being pretty sick — I had a fever and was not feeling well,” the student said. “So, I tried to get tested on campus. I first called Decker Student Health Services [Center] to find out if I was eligible to get tested on campus just because I live in U Club [Binghamton]. So, I didn’t want to take the bus in case I was actually sick, but I don’t have a car, so it would be easier for me to walk to campus than it would’ve been to walk to UHS — which is what I ended up doing. But I was not eligible to get tested on campus because I live off campus, which was kind of frustrating.”
According to Lisa Loar, director of health and counseling at BU, Decker Student Health Services currently offers testing for all students, whether or not they live on campus.
“We have worked to increase our capacity for testing and in a manner that allows us to help support campus safety,” Loar wrote in an email. “We have expanded the number of tests we can do in a single day from 20 [to] 100 and have expanded our ability to provide diagnostic testing to both on-campus and off-campus residing students.”
However, if a student is not experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, they are referred to another testing site in the Binghamton area.
“It is important to note, that we only offer diagnostic tests at [Decker Student Health Services Center] and recognize there are a number of local places students can go to receive screening or on-demand COVID-19 tests,” Loar wrote in an email. “That means in order to be tested at [Decker Student Health Services Center], someone has to have active symptoms consistent with COVID-19 as described by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).”
The COVID-19 testing site at BU that is run through the NYS Department of Health is one of these alternative testing sites. Only drive-through testing is offered there, resulting in some students without vehicles walking to an alternative location when referred there for testing.
“The person I spoke to on the phone [at Decker Student Health Services Center] basically said that if I didn’t have a car, I should go to UHS because they would be willing to still test me, whereas I wouldn’t be eligible to get the test done at the state testing center,” the anonymous student said.
Loar said that Decker Student Health Services offers testing for students without cars.
“At [Decker Student Health Services Center] students may arrive on foot and we have designated student parking out front if someone does want to arrive by vehicle,” Loar wrote.