From the Desk: Why mitigation testing matters -- and why it should matter to you

At this stage in the COVID-19 pandemic, we hear certain words and phrases with so much regularity -- "unprecedented," "6 feet apart," "superspreader event" -- that our brains can start to tune them out.

IU Bloomington Provost Lauren RobelView print quality image
Lauren Robel. Photo by Eric Rudd, Indiana University

Here's one that we as a campus simply cannot afford to ignore: "mitigation testing."

Mitigation testing refers to our university's effort to find and isolate people with asymptomatic cases of COVID-19. This form of testing is a combination of random testing of all members of the campus community and targeted testing of groups, like residence hall students, in more vulnerable living situations. It allows us to discover, and mitigate, COVID-19 before asymptomatic cases result in spread. Simply put, mitigation testing keeps our campus open.

Your participation in mitigation testing is therefore absolutely essential.

This summer, all faculty and staff signed a Community Responsibility Acknowledgement agreeing to do all we can to keep one another safe as a campus community to protect our faculty, staff and students and their extended families, friends and contacts.

As IU School of Medicine Professor Aaron Carroll wrote in his Sept. 15 New York Times opinion piece, now is the time to strengthen our resolve to embrace the behaviors and strategies, including regular testing, that we know will help keep our communities safe:

"It's not too late to invest in testing both symptomatic and asymptomatic people. ... We can no longer rely on just symptomatic testing and contact tracing. Nationally, we need much more than a million tests a week. The only way to get there is through ubiquitous, cheap, fast tests that can be distributed widely to identify those at risk who don't even know it."

Let us all commit to heeding public health advice, to taking the personal actions needed to protect ourselves and people we may never meet, and to furthering our inspiring commitment to caring for everyone who shares our community.

Lauren Robel is provost and executive vice president of IU Bloomington.