Fordham Must Enforce Comprehensive Testing Policies


Fordham University has experienced an increase in positive COVID-19 test results at the Rose Hill campus, jumping from zero to 16 confirmed positive cases in less than a week. Many crucial questions about the testing process and quarantine procedures remain unanswered in the midst of this rise. 

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo has enacted a threshold for in-person instruction at colleges and universities, with the regulation currently requiring a suspension of in-person instruction and activities if a university reports 100 confirmed cases in a prescribed two-week period. The state does not require schools to send home students who reside in university housing. 

Students must be able to have the opportunity to be tested to mitigate a potential outbreak on campus. Such testing can help students identify asymptomatic COVID-19 carriers, and any barriers to testing will only serve to amplify the spread of the virus. 

Fordham has only required two COVID-19 tests so far: one upon arrival and another within 14 days of the initial test. After this, the university will enact surveillance testing. The university has stated that not every student will be asked to be tested again during surveillance testing. 

According to Marco Valera, Fordham’s COVID-19 coordinator, students are only encouraged to get tested if they are symptomatic or were knowingly exposed to somebody who tested positive. It is unclear whether or not students without symptoms will be allowed to receive additional testing voluntarily in the future, or if a third test will be required at any point. 

With the uptick in confirmed cases at Rose Hill emerging around the same time that the second test is required, the need for adequate and accessible testing is more apparent than ever.

The Fordham administration must prioritize testing in their approach to managing COVID-19 on both of their campuses. Without consistent and comprehensive information regarding students’ health status, it will be impossible to know who is a COVID-19 carrier. If a student is unaware of their status, they may infect any peers with whom they interact.

Fordham is a close-knit community. With a relatively small campus population, we are almost all connected to one another somehow. Typically, this is a good thing — but a global pandemic has complicated its effects. Though many of us are limiting ourselves to contact with only small groups of friends, we cannot forget that these encounters are affected by everyone else our friends are in close contact with. With many positive cases being tied to students living off-campus with many roommates, one positive test result often means that a multitude of people have been exposed, and these individuals must have access to testing. 

The ambiguous policies regarding the allowed number of COVID-19 tests for each student must be remedied. Should a student find themselves showing symptoms or being directly exposed to the virus, confusion over testing procedures may inhibit them from seeking out another test, leading to a further spread of the virus.

Fordham University’s COVID-19 Testing Dashboard reports both Lincoln Center and Rose Hill’s testing results, including the total number of tests administered, total positive results and average infection rate, all broken down by campuses. A combined university total is also shown for each component. The tests include both those that are performed on-campus and through an outside health care provider. 

Universities across the country have created COVID-19 dashboards similar to that of Fordham; however, many universities include crucial information that Fordham’s dashboard lacks. These universities break down the positive test results to clarify whether the individuals are undergraduate students, graduate students, faculty members or other university staff members. 

The COVID-19 Dashboards from Stony Brook University, Harvard University and University of Michigan each include statistics regarding students in quarantine or isolation, which specific residence halls have had students with confirmed cases and COVID-19 trends in the surrounding area.

On Sept. 23, New York State released a COVID-19 Dashboard for Fordham University. The dashboard includes far more information than Fordham University’s dashboard. Data is listed concerning the campus quarantine capacity, number of students in quarantine or isolation and total positive cases to date. 

We applaud New York State for taking the initiative to develop a dashboard for Fordham University and other New York State colleges and universities. However, it makes it apparent that Fordham is able to report all of this information to the state but does not provide it directly to the Fordham community. 

For the safety and well-being of the Fordham community, the university must share this information. Transparency in all reporting of COVID-19 information is crucial to providing a safe environment for everyone involved with the Fordham campus as well as those living in the surrounding Bronx community. 

Beyond testing, students must also be made aware of the procedures that are in place should they test positive or be exposed to someone who has tested positive. Currently, the only information on Fordham’s website regarding positive test results explains in vague language that students “will have to remain home or in their quarantine location and will not be permitted access to campus.” 

We should not have to wait until the situation has occurred to know what the procedures are — in many ways, simply being aware of the university’s plans and options can help alleviate some of the stress of an immensely difficult situation. 

As always, it is important to remember that Fordham’s policies will have an impact that is not limited to the campus community, and not even limited to the borders of New York City. Having barriers to testing may hinder students from being tested before traveling home, leading to potential exposures to family members who could contract the virus. 

Please consider being tested in an off-campus location if you are unable to be tested within the university. New York City offers free testing to all city residents, and any testing site run by New York State will not charge you for a COVID-19 test. Testing sites are available at CityMD Urgent Care, Divino Nino Pediatrics PLLC, Doctor Urgent Medical Care and Bronx Care Concourse Campus. For more locations, please visit New York City’s COVID-19 website.

In order to preserve the elements of the safe on-campus environment that so many of us returned for this semester, Fordham must remain vigilant and responsible in their efforts to contain the virus. Lack of testing rewards students who are acting irresponsibly and neglects other students’ efforts to protect themselves and their community. As we mentioned in our first editorial of the semester, every member of the Fordham community bears responsibility in preserving our campus’ safety and that of the surrounding community. It is our hope that we will continue to hold ourselves and the university accountable as we navigate the challenges of our new normal.