COVID-19 Rewind: MU students struggled to rectify issues on entry testing forms

MU students living in university housing had to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test before they could move back in for the spring semester, though some students faced week-long issues with the process due to errors with their submissions.

It only took a day or so for most MU students living in Residential Life housing to turn in their negative COVID-19 tests and receive approval.

For sophomore Evan Dobson, it took two weeks, two submissions, several conversations with ResLife and a phone call warning him that failure to submit a test would force ResLife to remove him from his room in Hatch Hall.

But Dobson had submitted a test. A ResLife representative he contacted told him the department didn’t have a record of his results — he had, evidently, forgotten to put down the day of his test.

Dobson wasn’t immediately aware of a problem. He received an email two days after he submitted his test saying there was a problem with his document. The email didn’t specify what the problem was, but it listed several potential issues, like a troubleshooting page.

While MU eventually approved his test, Dobson’s experience wasn’t unique. He was one of a number of MU students who incorrectly submitted their entry test results but struggled to rectify the issue because they didn’t know what the issue was.

On Dec. 22, MU announced in a press release that students living in ResLife housing would have to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test or proof of a positive test from Oct. 15 to Jan. 9. Alternatively, students could go to the Student Health Center before Jan. 17 or to the Hearnes Center after Jan. 17 to get a test.

MU News Bureau Director Christian Basi said that of the 2,002 students who tested on campus, 37 tested positive — a 1.9% positivity rate. Basi said the News Bureau didn’t have access to the positivity rate for off-campus tests. Basi said about 6,300 students got tested in total and more than 70% of them had received tests before returning to MU.

Only students who tested off campus had to submit results through an online portal, meaning those who tested through MU faced no issues. Dobson and two other students, freshman Lilly Heatherly and freshman Shannon Worley (a staff writer with MOVE Magazine, a part of The Maneater), experienced their issues by improperly filling out the online form.

The day after Heatherly submitted her results, she received the same email Dobson did, which listed possible submission errors but didn’t specify hers.

Basi said these rejection emails don’t list the student’s specific issue because they are automated. The purpose of the emails isn’t to fix the issue right away, he said, but to let students know as soon as possible that there is an issue.

Heatherly said she resubmitted her results and received an email almost a week later informing her that her test was rejected because she had been tested more than five days before returning.

Heatherly got her test three days before returning to MU, so she registered for a test at Hearnes Center in an attempt to correct the error. She wasn’t able to receive a test on campus, though, because she had recent negative test results. A phone call eventually sorted out the matter, but the process took about a week.

“It’s been a mess,” Heatherly said. “I’ve had a lot of issues with ResLife, but this one was definitely frustrating.”

Worley realized her test had been rejected once she returned to campus. She looked at her form, realized she hadn’t marked her return date, corrected the error and resubmitted. Two days later, the coordinator of her dorm, Schurz Hall, called her, saying Worley hadn’t submitted her test and would be removed from the dorm if she didn’t submit the results.

After asserting that she had, in fact, submitted results, Worley received another rejection email the next day. This email told her she had to get retested on campus.

“That was actually my eighth COVID test, so I was not too keen on the idea of getting tested again,” Worley wrote in a text.

After a week of “back-and-forth,” a support team accepted Worley’s results.

Basi said these situations illustrate a perfectly functioning system. He said that since the team that reviewed students’ test results had to go through over 6,000 tests, it would be impossible for them to immediately reach out to individual students who had issues. Speaking about Heatherly’s issue specifically, he said staff at Hearnes Center connecting her to the right person was another sign that the process was working.

Basi said the MU administration “missed the mark” in some aspects of its COVID-19 response in the fall but that difficulties with arrival test submissions weren’t among the university’s mistakes.

“When you have this big of an operation, crap is going to happen, problems are going to pop up,” Basi said. “The catch is we were able to solve it quickly for the individual. We have a system set in place and we have the right people with the right attitudes to say, ‘Ah, crap, we got a problem, not something we expected. Let's get it fixed.’”

Edited by Eli Hoff | ehoff@themaneater.com

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