UHS facing limited capacity in testing amidst coronavirus concerns

UHS is ‘preparing for the increased availability of COVID-19 tests through commercial labs’

Collegian+File+Photo

Collegian File Photo

By Maria Elena Little Endara, Collegian Staff

Despite no recorded cases of COVID-19 at the University of Massachusetts, some wonder how prepared the school is to handle a possible pandemic.

Students that are experiencing symptoms and have either traveled to any affected area or been in close contact with someone ill are advised to call the Triage Advice Nurse at University Health Services.

Freshman mechanical engineering major Charbel Massaad said he went to UHS around 3 p.m. after having a bad cough for two weeks.

“They took my vitals and then I just waited on the side. I asked for a mask and they said they were out of masks, ‘just cough into your sleeve’,” said Massaad.

Massaad asked if he could be tested for the coronavirus after being encouraged by his parents, but the doctor told him they didn’t have “corona tests” and informed him he would have to do a chest scan.

“They said they only test in certain circumstances if they really have to,” explained Massaad.

When he asked if they had the “swab test,” Massaad said the doctor responded that they didn’t but that it wasn’t public information. After the appointment, the doctor encouraged him to use his inhaler and come back if his symptoms worsened.

According to the Boston Globe, the amount of COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts has doubled to 92 and caused Governor Charlie Baker to declare a state of emergency. This has left many students and faculty anxious about how prepared UMass is to prevent and deal with the issue.

“Prior to today, the only laboratory that was able to run a COVID-19 test was the Massachusetts Department of Public Health State Laboratory in Boston,” said UHS public health nurse Ann Becker.

Because of their limited capacity, guidelines were set on which patients should be tested. Becker said the decision to test someone for COVID-19 should be made by the patient’s healthcare provider based on the patient’s symptoms and history.

However, with the rapid increase in COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts, Becker says that UHS is “preparing for the increased availability of COVID-19 tests through commercial labs.”

Several institutions, including Amherst College and Smith College, have announced they will move to remote learning following spring break. The University unveiled a contingency plan on Tuesday in the instance that UMass did move to online learning, however the University is currently “not suspending face-to-face instruction at this time.”

Maria Elena Little Endara can be reached at [email protected]