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COVID-19 testing hits all-time high after university offers prizes for students

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Testing rates are at an all-time high since the university announced Nov. 4 it will offer prizes to participants of the on-campus asymptomatic testing program in an effort to curb the asymptomatic spread of COVID-19.

The contest was created by President Neal Smatresk and organized by the Division of Student Affairs. Participating students can win a $500 scholarship, Apple Airpods or Apple Watch 3 Series through random drawings each Friday until Thanksgiving break. Qualifying tests must be administered by the university and multiple tests do not count as multiple entries.

Since the announcement, on-campus testing rates have been higher than ever before, Kerry Stanhope, Assistant Director of the Meadows Center for Health Resources, said.

“For the asymptomatic surveillance testing, the target the university set for us was 300 per week,” Stanhope said. “We hit that goal during [move-in week] in August, but had not hit that goal any other week prior to the incentives. Our average was a little over 200 tests each week. Since the announcement of the incentives, we have hit that target each week and even exceeded it, so the incentives are encouraging students to get tested.”

The initiative also comes at a time where both the university and the state are seeing an increase in cases, Stanhope said.

“The last week of October [the university] had 69 cases and over 120 cases the last two weeks,” Stanhope said. “Based on contact tracing reports, the increase can be attributed to an increase of the number of close contacts for students and more close contacts are testing positive than we saw earlier in the semester.”

While the contest has resulted in the highest testing rates of the semester, some students had mixed reactions to the initiative.

“Of course everybody should get tested for purposes of minimizing contact and slowing the spread,” linguistics junior Gaberiel Smith said. “But offering incentives of such high monetary value seems extravagant, unwise, and frankly, hypocritical, especially whenever you consider the number and size of recent cuts that have been made in other departments with the university’s budget being as low as they claim it to be.”

In an email from the Division of Student Affairs, the North Texas Daily was told the contest is funded by a number of university administrators’ budgets.

“The president, vice president for finance and administration and vice president for student affairs contributed funds from their budgets toward this initiative,” said Melissa McGuire, Associate Vice President for Student Affairs.

Other students expressed concerns regarding their fellow classmates’ intention to social distance after getting tested for prizes.

“I think that the incentive has its pros and cons because, on one hand, it promotes testing and gives [students] a reason to get tested,” media arts senior Priya Chaudhari said. “At the same time, my concern is that more kids will [get tested] for the prizes and just blow off the seriousness of the virus. I think overall it’s good but I wish we didn’t have to provide a monetary incentive in order for people to do the right thing.”

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Featured Illustration by Miranda Thomas

Article Originally Published by Ileana Garnand on North Texas Daily

Source: North Texas Daily

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