All of UK should be tested


Jayden Riggs, a sophomore clinical management major, gets tested for COVID-19 on Friday, Feb. 5, 2021, at K-Lair in Haggin Hall in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

Editorial Board

As students approach the fifth semester that has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, it seems unlikely that the virus will be going away anytime soon. At this point, though, the University of Kentucky needs to be more consistent in its measures to fight COVID-19.

An email sent by UK president Eli Capilouto on Jan. 3 detailed the COVID precautions the university will be implementing for the spring 2022 semester, and not much has changed since the fall.

All unvaccinated students, faculty and staff are being required to take a weekly COVID test. If they do not comply, there are various levels of repercussions, the highest level for students being a possible interim suspension, according to UK’s Spring Guide.

However, only testing the unvaccinated is not doing enough to stop the spread, since it is possible that vaccinated individuals are equally as likely to catch and spread the virus.

As of now, data on the positivity rates in light of vaccination status are unavailable to the public. It appears that nobody is sharing these numbers, though it could be helpful for the public to have access to in the midst of so much uncertainty.

UK’s email said that when compared to previous strains, “The Omicron variant is much more transmissible.”

UK spokesperson Jay Blanton said that UK is following the recommendations from the CDC in not testing vaccinated individuals as well, and he is not sure if UK tracks whether individuals testing positive are vaccinated or not.

If the omicron variant is spreading more quickly than other variants, why is the university not holding everyone accountable so that asymptomatic cases are not overlooked?

According to the university’s COVID-19 Data Dashboard, as of Dec. 15, 87.4% of students, 97.1% of faculty and 93.2% of staff at UK are vaccinated. This implies that only a very small portion of people at UK are actually getting tested regularly.

Last academic year, UK required every individual who was on campus to be tested monthly with one of four designated testing groups. This was a better option than only testing unvaccinated individuals because it was able to detect asymptomatic individuals, as well as those showing signs of COVID.

The positivity rates from this point last year at UK are not available to the public.

“It’s an apples and oranges comparison, though,” Blanton said about looking at data from last year compared to this year. “I mean, at one point you were looking at people who were being mandatorily tested because they’re not vaccinated, or entry testing because everybody had to test, as opposed to another group for a complete different reason.”

According to the Spring 2022 Guide, vaccinated individuals are also not required to isolate after being exposed to someone with the virus, even though they are as likely to get it as an unvaccinated individual, who will be required to isolate for a five day period.

The CDC’s website says that although vaccinated people have a reduced chance of being hospitalized from COVID, they are able to catch the virus, as well as spread it.

It is for this reason that vaccinated individuals still should be required to be tested regularly to ensure they are not transmitting the virus to others.

If UK is looking at the facts and the transmissibility of the virus among vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals, it is clear that the same precautions should be taken for both.

Several colleges, including Vanderbilt, Northern Kentucky University and the University of Cincinnati, have delayed the start of in-person classes for the upcoming semester due to the rise in cases.

UK did not delay the in-person start date, so classes began on Jan. 10.

Last spring, UK required every student who would be coming to campus to complete re-entry testing between Jan. 14 and Jan. 30, 2021.

This semester, however, students were not required to receive a test upon arrival on campus.

The university should have required everyone to be tested when they return to campus to ensure the safety of students, faculty and staff. Members of the UK community should be protecting each other through checking regularly to see if they are spreading the virus unknowingly.

According to the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services’s website, on Jan. 6, 2021, the positivity rate of COVID-19 in the commonwealth was 11.66%, and as of Jan. 6, 2022, the positivity rate has doubled to 22.89%.

If rates are this much higher, why is UK taking less precautions than they were a year ago?

It is simply reckless to disregard that vaccinated individuals can also be carriers of COVID-19. Regular testing needs to be mandatory for all students on campus to lessen the likelihood of a surge on UK’s campus.

UK is responsible for making decisions to benefit the health of all individuals on campus, and they are not doing that by disregarding the possibility of the majority group on campus also spreading the virus.

Testing only the unvaccinated regularly isn’t fair to anyone.

As the semester starts, it isn’t too late for UK to start testing everyone again so that all students, faculty and staff will be held equally accountable for protecting their peers.