Testing? Testing? At Scripps, it’s not always easy to access

Around 30 COVID testing kits lie on a white table.
Scripps College students have found it difficult to keep up with COVID-19 testing protocols, even as the school has begun warning of consequences for those who fail to comply. (Anna Choi • The Student Life)

With uncertainty rampant and low proportions of the student body successfully making appointments, the results for Scripps College’s COVID-19 testing program are in — and they’re positive for confusion.

Scripps reported 654 tests taken by students last week, out of more than 1,000 full-time undergraduate students — a new high after the 450 student tests it registered the week before.

Some who open Scripps’ testing reservation app find no appointments available. Those who do end up getting tested sometimes receive results days later.

Altogether, in contrast to the other Claremont Colleges, Scripps’ COVID-19 test policy and protocol appears “ambiguous, and not well communicated,” Maddie Callan SC ’23 said.

On Thursday, some students received alarming emails from interim Dean of Students Adriana di Bartolo-Beckman.

I have been informed that you have not been participating in the College’s weekly testing program at the 240 House … This is considered your first warning,” di Bartolo-Beckman wrote. “Continued failure to participate in weekly screening testing will jeopardize your ability to register for spring semester classes or remain on campus.”

Among other clarifications, di Bartolo-Beckman told students that getting tested at Student Health Services — which provides same-day results and allows 5C students to walk in without reservations — “is not a substitute for participation in the College’s screening testing program.” This was news to Gabi Seifert SC ‘23, who has been testing at SHS locations. 

“I definitely thought my weekly SHS testing counted,” she said. “I thought because it was the Claremont Colleges it would be fine. I was completely blindsided by this email.”

Interim President Amy Marcus-Newhall informed community members on the first day of classes, Aug. 30, that the college would require all students, faculty and staff to be tested at least weekly. A week later, di Bartolo-Beckman added to the announcement..

ALL vaccinated students, faculty, and staff will be tested once a week beginning this week. Unvaccinated students, faculty, and staff will be tested twice a week,” she wrote in an all-school email Sept. 7. “To comply with this requirement, all students, faculty, and staff must download the Healthfully app.” 

While it is possible to schedule visits through the app, Scripps hasn’t addressed a lack of clarity among community members about its use, Caitlyn Ossa SC ’24 said.

 “I know a lot of people who don’t know how to use Healthfully, students and staff included,” Ossa said. 

Many Scripps students have opted to test at SHS because, according to Ossa, the Healthfully app doesn’t regularly show all of the testing appointments available.

This past week, Ossa was unable to schedule a test through Healthfully as no appointments were shown as available through the app. She walked to the Scripps testing center to ask for help.

“I went in and they tried to figure out a way to just get me scheduled,” Ossa said. “And they said this has happened to a lot of people, in terms of Healthfully not allowing them to schedule appointments even though, and I quote the nurse here, ‘there are appointments available.’”

Before Thursday’s email, Scripps hadn’t given details on consequences for failing to comply with the COVID-19 testing policy.

The message assigned students specific testing times in Thursday’s email, though some had already scheduled tests for the same day they were assigned, or even before.

When asked for comment on Scripps’ testing protocol, Scripps spokesperson Rachael Warecki SC ’08 directed TSL to the Scripps Strong website.

The site provides the same information as the Sept. 7 email in addition to information about Healthfully, the app through which students must also provide weekly self-assessments of symptoms.

The website says “users will be able to schedule their tests according to their work or class schedule.” But without reminders and scarce clarification, it’s unclear if Scripps students knew that this was expected of them. Callan said that while she does know where to go and when, it’s only because she’s talked to other students with more knowledge and information.

“So, even though I now know that weekly testing has started as of this week, I don’t know if other students know that, especially students who are maybe not as well connected,” Callan said. 

Ossa and Callan said they’ve heard of information being spread on individual Instagram stories and dorm meetings — but without consistent ways to keep all students in the loop.

Callan said she’s worried by the current state of testing. She feels that other underclassmen must be confused if she is and that a lower rate of testing may mean there are COVID-19 cases on campus that simply aren’t being detected.

“Even if you can get an appointment at 240, I’ve experienced serious delays getting my results back, sometimes longer than 48 hours. During that time I could go to class, eat in a dining hall, and do all kinds of things that would endanger my community,” Mary Iris Allison SC ’23 said. “According to what I’ve heard, the SHS results that come in that day, which seemed like a great backup for folks that couldn’t make an appointment with Scripps, don’t count for your weekly test requirement.”

“This is the only place a lot of us have and they’re ignoring that too, telling us our housing is jeopardized as though we’re purposefully disobeying rules that we haven’t been given the means to follow.”—Grace Lyde

Thursday’s email rattled students who had already been tested through Scripps, like Allison and Grace Lyde SC ‘23.

“I’m being threatened for failings on the part of the institution meant to protect me,” Lyde said in a message. “This is the only place a lot of us have and they’re ignoring that too, telling us our housing is jeopardized as though we’re purposefully disobeying rules that we haven’t been given the means to follow.”

Other 5C students gave their colleges’ systems better reviews. Daenerys Pineda CM ’22 said she finds Claremont McKenna College’s protocol straightforward and accessible.

CMC has been sending out school-wide emails reminding students that COVID-19 testing is required, Pineda said, and that not completing tests counts as a conduct violation.

“If they are able to assign you a conduct violation, I would assume they have the infrastructure to track you down, but I’m not 100% sure,” Pineda said.

Similarly, Pitzer students know what they have to do — “each year has an assigned day,” Shelby Kwawu PZ ’23 said. “[Any time that day] you go down to Student Health Services, you spit in a tube … and then you run back to campus to finish your classes.” 

If you miss your day, Kwawu said, you just get tested on Friday instead.

Like CMC and Pitzer, “Pomona makes it very clear that you are supposed to get tested at least once a week,” said Randy Pierre PO ’25. Harvey Mudd College has also made testing protocols clear and organized for Mudd students, Viviane Solomon HM ’24 said, adding she feels comfortable with her access to testing.

Correction: An earlier version of this article misspelled a student’s first name. She is Maddie Callan, not Maddy.

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