Students experience long testing lines during move-in

Due to technical difficulties, workers were forced to manually enter COVID-19 student testing information, leaving incoming students waiting for up to two hours.

by Manasi Singh | 9/16/21 5:00am

9-13-2021-testingtable-nainabhalla

Students moving in faced up to two-hour wait times to be tested.

by Naina Bhalla / The Dartmouth

Many students who arrived for pre-orientation programming last week were met with long COVID-19 testing lines. 

Incoming students received emails from the College a few weeks before arrival detailing campus arrival times and testing locations. COVID-19 testing — in collaboration with Axiom Medical Consulting — was conducted in outdoor tents on the lawn in front of Hitchcock Hall. 

Long lines began to form almost as soon as testing opened, leading to wait times up to two hours, according to Yul Kim ’25. 

College spokesperson Diana Lawrence wrote in an emailed statement that the issue was related to faulty technology.

“We learned on the morning of the first-year student arrival that the dataset with our new student names had an issue, so we were required to enter each new student into the system for the first time by hand,” Lawrence wrote. “This slowed the process down, but we quickly caught up when we deployed additional Dartmouth staff to pitch in.”

Heath Monsma ’25 said that the initial instructions arriving students received by email were straightforward, providing basic information on testing and key pick-up locations.

“Initially, I thought the line that was curving all the way around Massachusetts Row … was to get keys, but then we heard it was for the [COVID-19 testing] line,” Monsma said. “I went to get my key and everything first, came back and the line had only gotten longer, and everyone that I saw initially in the line hadn’t moved.”

A committee of individuals from the student affairs staff, testing operations committee and Dartmouth College Health Service facilitated move-in, according to Lawrence.

Kim said he found a more efficient strategy to avoid the lines.

“My sister waited in line [for an hour] for me while I did other stuff and while I unpacked so it was a little more efficient, but I think it could have been better,” he said. 

Kim and Monsma both said they observed most students wearing a mask in the outdoor line. However, they noted that the process could have been handled more safely, citing the lack of social distancing. Kim added that College officials never instructed students to distance, even as large groups crowded together near the testing tent.

Emily Liu ’24, who arrived early on campus to be a trip leader for the Dartmouth Outing Club’s First-Year Trips program, said her training was delayed by three hours in part due to the long testing line that had formed. 

“Another thing I noticed was that when I showed up to do testing, new students had to be doing testing at the same time,” Liu said. 

She added that the testing setup differed from last fall’s move-in protocols, in which each student had a designated testing time slot. Last year saw few delays upon fall move-in, but later, the temporary introduction of more rapid antigen tests in the spring caused a spike in wait times. 

During move-in testing this fall, some students were offered the option of taking both a PCR and antigen COVID-19 test, Liu said. The antigen test provides less accurate results in a shorter period of time, while the required PCR test is more accurate but slower to process. After the long lines began to form, Liu added, students were no longer given the option of taking an antigen test. 

According to Lawrence, move-in testing was much smoother on Sept. 11 when upperclassmen began arriving on campus. Lawrence wrote that this was primarily due to additional volunteers.

“​​Several staff members stopped what they were doing to come … join the testing process [and] reduce the lines and get the students on their way so there were no interruptions to the orientation schedule,” Lawrence wrote.

Testing this fall is taking place in the Alumni Gymnasium, according to the Dartmouth Vaccines and Testing page. However, Lawrence wrote that the College is working to roll out a take-home testing option for Dartmouth employees and will be opening the option up to student-athletes and graduate students soon. The undergraduate student population will also be invited to participate in take-home testing as soon as testing kit drop-off locations are finalized, Lawrence added. 

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