By: Jonathan Levin  | 

YU Updates COVID-19 Testing Management After Long Wait Times Sparked Student Frustration

The resumption of Yeshiva University’s COVID Monitoring Program on Monday, Oct. 4 sparked student frustration as many experienced overcrowding and long wait times. In response, YU’s COVID Team emailed students two days later that the testing protocols would be updated to include “substantive changes” to speed up the process, beginning today. 

Contributing to the initial wait times — which were anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour — were the number of staff administering the COVID-19 PCR tests and processing the health forms that everyone was required to complete. Each campus had two to three workers administering the tests and around three people scanning students’ healthcare information. During last year’s COVID-19 testing, when significantly fewer students were on campus and YU’s stations had more staff, testing times could be several minutes. 

When Monday’s testing was held at Beren Campus, its placement in Yagoda Commons of the 215 Lexington building caused overcrowding, since the line to scan the healthcare information was largely located in the main lobby. The line was so long that students were told to continue the line onto the second floor of the 215 building. Neither the ascending nor the descending escalators were working properly, and the ascending escalator was blocked off for the entire morning of testing, compounding students’ difficulty in ascending to the second floor for class. A student reported that at about noon, students removed the caution signs blocking the ascending escalator and walked up, at which point security got involved and tried to manage the students walking along the single down escalator. 

Felicia Weintraub (SSSB ‘23), who waited among the crowd at 215 Lexington, shared her frustrations at the time with the state of COVID-19 restrictions at YU. “While I understand that the school is doing all these things to keep us safe and our school open, is being vaccinated, having to wear masks and getting tested twice a week all really necessary?! I hope YU is going to shift a little bit to give us the school experience we hoped for while also keeping us safe.”

In their email sent out yesterday, YU explained that testing will now be in a self-test format, more personnel will be hired and the process will be streamlined to decrease inconveniences. COVID-19 testers did administer tests, on request, for students who preferred not to do it themselves. According to many students, the new system cut the total testing time down to about five minutes.

The university’s email also informed students of further changes made to testing, including the testing sites relocating on Beren Campus from Yagoda Commons to room 501 at 215 Lexington Ave and on Wilf from Weissberg Commons in Belfer Hall to room 501 in Furst Hall.

Additionally, for future on-campus testing, all students will be required to download Navica, a third-party app that will inform students of their test results. If a student tests positive, they will need to return to the testing site to confirm their diagnosis with a PCR test.

Due to student frustrations with Monday’s testing, an on-campus PCR testing site was organized by students at Wilf Campus for Thursday at the gym in Rubin Hall and at Morgenstern Hall’s lounge. The university later told the students they could not manage this on campus. The tests — administered by Travel Test NY-NJ — promised results in 24-36 hours. 

While the university originally announced that failing to test on Monday would result in students’ IDs being frozen, this was halted “due to the challenges to Monday’s testing.” Nevertheless, in the email sent on Oct. 6, YU said that beginning on the night of Thursday, Oct. 7, failing to test would either result in a warning or a notice of ID deactivation. Last year, IDs were only deactivated if students missed three consecutive tests. As of publication, Associate Dean of Students Joe Bednarsh did not respond to The Commentator’s request for comment.

Students found the new system to be significantly better. “Testing went very smoothly and easily,” Benjamin Pray (YC ‘22) commented. He said the difference between Monday and Thursday was between “night and day.” 

Tanya Goldschmid (SCW ‘25) agreed. She said, “The line was super quick, and I got my results within a minute of it being done.”

Yeshiva College Student Council President Jonah Chill also applauded YU’s decision to adjust its system. “Students have busy schedules and cannot be expected to wait over half an hour to get a COVID test,” he explained. “I’m very pleased that YU acknowledged the faults in Monday’s testing and made quick adjustments to ensure a more efficient testing experience.”

The resumption of the COVID Monitoring Program was announced by email to the student body on Sep. 23 and entails mandatory testing twice weekly on Monday and Thursday. According to the original email, testing will continue for the next few weeks, after which the university — together with its medical director — will examine infection rates and other data to decide on how to proceed with further testing, including whether to increase or decrease its frequency. Infection rates in New York City have been declining since mid-September, with the seven-day average of confirmed COVID-19 cases as of Oct. 6 standing at 964. The latest data for Washington Heights - Inwood — from the week ending Oct 1 — averages 63 positive COVID-19 cases per 100,000, the third-lowest neighborhood rate in the city.

Photo Caption: Wilf students waiting to get tested on Monday, Oct. 4

Photo Credit: The Commentator