09 March 2021

Testing, testing

What to do with teaching in a pandemic? If you teach a subject like Ocean sciences, you sometimes want to let the students do practical things. Stare at an anemone, measure a rock, count dog whelks, walk across a saltmarsh. That sort of thing. You do not want to deprive your students of all of that, even in unusual times. But you don't want to endanger them or yourself either. So what did the University do? As I mentioned before, they turned their big glamorous exam hall into a testing centre. And you can just go there for a test; no questions asked. I had been the first time because of a scare, but that is not the only reason to go there.

If you do any face-to-face teaching, the University requests that everybody involved gets two negative tests beforehand. Anyone who tests positive is, of course, expected to self-isolate, and can't join the face-to-face teaching. And for those who do go, it's a safe idea that everybody has been tested negative. So I had already done two of these tests before we took the students to northern Anglesey, but there was another fieldtrip imminent. So I had to go back.

So far I had always done my two tests with sometime in between, but this time the tests had to be on the same day and I didn't want to go twice. I had to teach on Monday, so my tests had to be Friday. Your negative results have to come from the previous three days. And I couldn't be tested before the fieldwork on Monday. We start too early.

I walked in, did the usual thing, got my test, walked out, and walk straight in again. They don't ask for two tests because they want to let some time pass in between, in case some viral load develops; it's just that these rapid tests are not overly reliable, and if you do the experiment twice, the results are more robust. So going twice in a row is perfectly reasonable. The wardens were not so sure though, but I had made sure to look it up. There is only a maximum amount of time between your tests; not a minimum. So I just went again. At least, that was the idea.

I had to do the usual filling out the digital form thing, and I got to the end where you have to prove you're not a robot, and then I got an error message. And I noticed the other person waiting had the same. There seemed to be a problem with the system! I tried a few times more, but it still didn't work.

In the end I was ready to just walk away. One test would have to do! But the wardens offered to test me anyway, and just personally sent me the results if I would give them my details. That would mean my results would not be confidential, but they wouldn't be anyway, as if I would test positive I would have cancelled the entire fieldtrip. So I happily left my phone number, did the second test, and went home. Both negative, as expected. So I was good to go! But I was surprised I seemed to have been the first person these wardens had seen who did two tests in a row. I could imagine the students doing the same, even though most of them live in Bangor itself, so can pop into the Main Arts building a bit more easily than I can. Oh well! I will do this again. I have more field trips coming up. And I hope the system collaborates the next time!

Notice the ‘profi/testing’ sign

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