Illustration by Isabel Ríos

I’m Taking Part in NYUAD’s Voluntary Covid-19 Study. You Should Too.

The minuscule sacrifice of our time is disproportionate to the impact — the screening is free, extremely quick and easy, but could radically impact how our campus is affected by Covid-19.

Nov 21, 2020

A few weeks ago, I enrolled in the NYU Abu Dhabi Screening Study. My participation in the screening study is on alternate weeks, in addition to the mandatory biweekly PCR tests: this means I get tested every week. Joining the voluntary study is the best way to proactively protect our community, especially those who are most vulnerable, and contribute to a global fight against the virus.
It is the right thing to do. And it is also the easy thing to do.
First, it is important to note that the screening study is not a diagnostic test. It is meant for those who are healthy, not showing any symptoms or who have any reason to believe they have contracted the virus. Nonetheless, if the virus is detected in the sample, the Health Center would follow up to secure a diagnostic test and any other necessary steps.
All members of the NYUAD community are eligible, provided that they have authorization to visit campus. You can sign up online or just walk up to the booth set up on the ground floor of the Campus Center on Sundays or Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. It takes about five minutes to fill out a survey on your phone, ensuring you understand the rules and procedures.
And to those who dread the biweekly attack on your nose, the screening survey does not require a nasal swab. You simply spit into a tube. That’s it. After your first visit, the saliva sample can be collected either every week or every other week, and you will receive an email reminder to schedule your next appointment.
To me, this five minute detour through the Campus Center every other week is worth it.
It provides me with peace of mind. I haven’t been perfect; I see friends on campus and I go out into the city. Even though it is not diagnostic, I feel all the better ensuring I am testing on a one week interval, as opposed to two. I think about the fact that many young people would be asymptomatic, and the difference between one week of contacts versus two could alter the spread completely.
I think about the small circle of friends I interact with each week and the handful more acquaintances I have once-off meetings with. If I ever was an asymptomatic patient, knowing one week earlier would drastically reduce my hard contacts and the concern that I could have passed the virus to those I care about. Any hard contacts would face a 14 day quarantine, regardless of a subsequent negative test.
The study aims to estimate the prevalence of asymptomatic cases in our community and more generally improve the methods for sample collection and Covid-19 detection. Youssef Idaghdour, Assistant Professor of Biology and co-principal investigator of the study, explained how with more participants, there is more data to improve the research. Additionally, Idaghdour’s team is developing a method that has shown to be more accurate than the method used in laboratories in Abu Dhabi and around the world. Idaghdour added how, with our help, the team can get more attention on their method and potentially improve Covid-19 policy locally.
The minuscule sacrifice of our time is disproportionate to the impact as this process contributes to important research that informs the response to the crisis not only on our campus, but beyond. There is a moral responsibility that underlies these facts — the screening is free, extremely quick and easy, but could radically impact how our campus is affected by Covid-19.
Caroline Sullivan is Senior Features Edtior. Email her feedback at
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