UTC begins randomized rapid testing of students, faculty

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CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF) – UTC students and faculty are now subject to receiving randomized rapid COVID-19 tests as of this week.

At UTC, each week 1,000 students, faculty and staff members will receive an email at the end of the week notifying them that they have been selected for routine rapid testing the following week.

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Those letters went out for the first time last week, with this week being the first official week of routine testing.

But student John Pavlechon says that, while inconvenient, the testing is necessary to keep everyone safe.

“It doesn’t matter as much to me because it’s mostly about the safety of the students. It’s a bit inconvenient and I have seventeen hours of classes, so this is very inconvenient. But I don’t much care if it’s helping people stay alive,” Pavlechon says.

Attorney Terry Olsen says that the university reserves the right to conduct the tests, saying that students and faculty signed over their medical records as an agreement for attending or working at the school.

“We have to remember that if you’re an individual at UTC as a student or as a faculty you already have given your medical records over to the UTC health center. When you attend UTC, you have said you are going to abide by certain principles, certain guidelines. So once again, once the CDC says we’ve seen a pattern – we’ve seen it for a year – we have to do more now and then UTC is just abiding by that, then nothing I think is being accessed more than you’ve consented to,” says Olsen.

Attorney Robin Flores had an opposing view to Mr. Olsen, saying that the nature of a state actor such as a public university forcing students and faculty to comply with something like getting a COVID test was enough to raise questions about its legality.

“If it’s a student, the question then becomes what is the coercive effect of requiring them to come in and give that sample, and that’s where I think the issue would rise and fall on, would be the coercive effect. In other words, you need to come in and if you don’t, we’re going to take certain action against you. And so in that particular instance, it could have some fourth amendment issue problems meaning with you know the seizure of the person, requiring and coercing them to come and give a sample and take a sample from them,” says Flores.

The University Health Services cites an article from the Journal of the American Medical Association, which found that over 50% of COVID-19 transmission occurs from people who aren’t showing symptoms.