On Tuesday, the College installed a vending machine that dispenses rapid antigen tests on the first floor of David Saul Smith Union in an effort to provide students with access to Covid tests without an interfacing office. Each student will be able to retrieve up to four free test kits this semester from the machine using their OneCard—tests they previously had to acquire from the OneCard Office or Bowdoin Health Services during College business hours.
The idea for the vending machine arose among College staff last semester, as deans received complaints from students that Covid tests were no longer available on campus if needed outside of weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.. Throughout the previous academic year, students could retrieve rapid tests from the Office of Safety and Security at all hours.
Associate Dean for Student Affairs and Student Life Katie Toro-Ferrari said the installation of the vending machines also increases test availability, which may ease anxieties surrounding Covid that remain on campus.
“We were having conversations about how we can take that harm reduction approach and make tests more easily available. We know that we asked students to come with two tests of their own, but if you think you’ve been exposed, those two tests go pretty quickly,” Toro-Ferrari said. “So we looked at some other schools, and there were other schools who had implemented this vending machine model. And so we were like, we should maybe try to do this.”
Facilities will monitor the number of tests taken each day and restock as needed, wrote Director of Events and Summer Programs Tony Sprague wrote in an email to the Orient. They will pay particular attention to the inventory leading up to weekends to ensure it is stocked before other test options on campus are unavailable for two days.
The tests in the vending machine are only for students, Senior Vice President for Communications and Public Affairs Scott Hood wrote in an email to the Orient. Faculty and staff seeking Covid testing can continue to be tested at the OneCard Office if they are symptomatic or a close contact.