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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


OPINION: No free COVID-19 tests for students and staff

A researcher at the University of Arizona holds a serology test used for detecting the presence of antibodies against the virus that causes COVID-19. If you believe you have symptoms, the UA offers many testing sites around campus. Courtesy Gerri Kelly.

A new COVID-19 variant named Pirola, or BA.2.86, has started raising tensions for the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other organizations. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like the University of Arizona has to offer any free testing kits this time for the students and staff. During earlier COVID-19 waves in 2020 and 2021, UA offered free testing kits and students also earned rewards for testing.

 Pirola is the variant of the Omicron, and it was first detected in Denmark. It entered this August in the US. One concern with this new variant is that it has a lot of mutations which can bypass the protection provided by vaccines. It’s been found in wastewater of more than 10 states including New York, Ohio, Texas and other states.

Sadly, it is now also spotted in our neighboring state Utah which has raised concerns in Arizona. UA looks unprepared for this variant because they aren’t offering free kits and without testing you can’t identify the virus. The reason UA isn’t providing kits for free this time is that it’s not receiving funding from the state government.

Still, the experts aren’t sure about what kind of impact this variant will create. Will it spread quickly like earlier variants, or will it just vanish in some time? If this variant is impactful then how UA will help their students and staff, without funding, is the big question.

TheUA provided incentives with programs like the Star Reward program from Spring 2021 to Spring 2022 to students who completed covid testing. Will the university provide the same incentives this time if the new variant spreads? We should be at least prepared for the worst scenario. As per the official data, the UA did more than 455,000 covid tests from Aug. 2020- June 2023. A total of 12,158 students were affected by COVID-19 during this period which is about 2.7% of total testing. 

Very recently the news of the new vaccine has been in the media. New vaccines have proven to be effective against the virus of the XBB family. As per the laboratory data, the new vaccine can be proven effective against the new variant.

During the COVID-19 period from Summer 2021 to Spring 2022 the UA even provided vaccine incentives to promote vaccination across campus. Incentives included $500 tuition scholarship, bookstore scholarships, dorm rent credits and other benefits for the students.

For employees it had incentives like football tickets, campus recreation memberships, etc. The question is, will the university again provide these incentives to bolster the new vaccine among students? Also, this vaccine may be effective against new variants so students and staff will be highly benefited if UA takes any action in this direction. 

As of now, it seems like UA will wait and watch for how the new variant Pirola creates an impact on people. The UA has no funding from the state government to financially support new vaccines or to provide free kits, so it will be interesting to see what it does if the situation gets worse because of Pirola. Let’s hope that Pirola will be less threatening than the other variants.

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