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Why doesn't my DukeCard turn off when I miss my COVID-19 surveillance test?

Many Duke students are familiar with the panic that comes after trying to get into their residence halls with their DukeCards, only to have their cards rejected and realize they didn’t get their COVID-19 tests.

DukeCards are required to access residence halls and many buildings on campus, as well as use food points. Continued access depends on completing surveillance tests when required to do so.

“Students not completing this requirement will be referred to the Office of Student Conduct or their graduate/professional program. Students who miss testing may lose their ability to access campus facilities,” states Duke United, the University's website for COVID-19 updates.

But DukeCard shutoff has been inconsistent, and some students on campus have not lost access after failing to complete their surveillance tests on time.

“The fear of your DukeCard losing card access is not there anymore, so they no longer incentivize surveillance,” first-year Ayush Jain said. 

Jain often forgets to get his surveillance test, most frequently on Fridays, but does not always lose DukeCard access, he said. 

“In theory, I think that it’s a good idea, but I don't think it is effective in practice,” Jain said. “My card doesn’t get deactivated in most cases, but sometimes it does. It’s arbitrary how it works.”

Duke linked DukeCards to COVID-19 testing during summer 2020 in preparation for entry tests, wrote Joe Gonzalez, student affairs pandemic response coordinator, in an email to The Chronicle. Daily symptom monitoring on SymMon and surveillance testing were additional steps to protect community health. 

Gonzalez wrote that there are “situations where a student's ID is left active despite a missed test.”

The punishment of deactivating card access for missed tests frustrates some students.

Most COVID-19 surveillance sites on campus are only open Monday to Thursday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and usually close earlier on Fridays, meaning students like first-year Talia Penn with back-to-back classes feel they do not have a chance to take their COVID-19 test. 

Penn has class until 8 p.m. on Wednesdays. She said that she does not have time to get tested when she has to go back to her dorm to change before she goes to ROTC.

“If I have to get a COVID test across the quad and wait in line, I’ll be late to class,” she explained.

One solution that Penn believes could be critical to alleviating these frustrations is to send a weekly testing schedule at the beginning of the week. Penn believes that knowing several days beforehand what day students will get tested will allow them to schedule the test into their day more efficiently. 

“We’re supposed to be taking care of people here,” Penn said. “Yet, when they forget to take their tests, they don’t get to eat for the rest of the night? That's not okay.”

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