The University of Oregon is offering free COVID-19 testing for employees and students living off campus. I got my free a couple weeks ago, and I hope you will, too.
UO’s Monitoring and Assessment Program conducts testing, separate from MAP’s required testing for students living in residence halls. This free testing is not required, but UO spokesperson Saul Hubbard said the school encourages students to seek testing regularly, especially if they are often around people not living in their households.
Registration is required through the university’s registration portal. Currently, students and employees can sign up for slots on Monday and Tuesday mornings, Thursday afternoons and all day on Fridays, Hubbard said, but UO may adjust this schedule as it expands testing opportunities. The registration portal is updated every Friday for the next week’s testing.
When I arrived at Matthew Knight Arena for my 15-minute testing slot on Nov. 6, I waited a couple of minutes with about 20 others outside. Just after 1:30 p.m., a MAP employee instructed us to form a socially distanced line, which took less than five minutes to get through.
Before entering the building, we used hand sanitizer, blew our noses and disposed of the tissue in a bin labeled “biohazardous waste.”
Inside the building, I followed a clear path — still socially distanced — to the testing area. I first told employees my name and birthday to sign in and signed a use-and-disclosure form for my results. Next, I held out my UO ID in exchange for a small vial which an employee scanned and wrote my name on. At this point, I took a photo of the paper explaining that I’d get my results by 5 p.m. on Nov. 10 — four days later.
When one of the several testing tables opened up, I walked over to collect my testing sample. The MAP employee handed me a q-tip to put about one centimeter up each nostril for 10 seconds, which they then put in the small vial I got earlier. The testing process is also outlined on the university’s testing website.
The whole thing took about 15 minutes for me. By the time I finished, there were no more students waiting in line outside the arena.
On Nov. 10 at 2:39 p.m., I received a secure email from the MAP lab explaining my negative test results.
Isabel Serpa, a senior at UO, got tested for COVID-19 during the same time slot. In an email, Serpa said she only got a test because she saw that UO was offering free testing, and she probably wouldn’t have gotten it if it wasn’t free.
She said her experience getting tested was “very nice” and every employee was nice and respectful.
Another senior at UO said the testing experience was convenient, easy and straightforward. She wanted to get tested after Halloween weekend, she said, but wouldn’t have gotten the test if it wasn’t so convenient.
Her only complaint, she said, was that UO didn’t start offering this testing sooner.
The student also got her negative results on Nov. 10 around 3 p.m.
Serpa, on the other hand, said she didn’t get her results until Nov. 16, ten days after the testing date.
“Not hearing back about my test results by the time they stated the results would be ready has gotten me more worried,” Serpa said, “and I am definitely experiencing some unnecessary anxiety.”
Serpa first emailed MAP, she said, and she got a response saying MAP would forward her information to the results team. MAP told Serpa to reach out again if she didn’t get her results within a day. She didn’t, and she emailed the results team. A couple days later, Serpa received the same secure email as I did with her negative results.
MAP apologized for the delay, she said, but didn’t explain why she didn’t get her results on time.
“I will say I love that the university is offering testing,” Serpa said in a text, “but I think I will be looking for other testing options next time I get tested.”
Students with questions about their tests or who want to cancel their registration can email c19MAP@uoregon.edu, according to the confirmation email I received after signing up. Hubbard said there is no penalty for students who miss their time slot, but it is helpful to contact MAP beforehand.
People can still come on the same day within a few hours of their scheduled time slot, Hubbard said, and MAP will only turn away individuals if they show up outside normal testing hours or during a testing time assigned to another group, such as UO housing.
“If you missed it completely, feel free to sign up again for a different day,” he said.
All employees present at the testing, from greeting to collection, are MAP employees, Hubbard said, and those administering tests have completed health training.
No MAP testing will occur from Wednesday, Nov. 25, to Sunday, Nov. 29, for Thanksgiving break, Hubbard said. The program will resume standard testing plans the following Monday.
UO is still discussing winter break plans, he said, but MAP will continue offering testing throughout December. The university has not determined what winter term testing will look like, either, but Hubbard said regular testing will be available for employees, students and community members.