October 30, 2020
COVID-19 testing strategy for Spring 2021
To the University community,
I continue to be amazed by the commitment of our campus community as we navigate this virus, together and with remarkable resilience. I have seen countless examples of the ways in which each of you is caring for one another as COVID-19 continues in its many impacts.
As we near the conclusion of our fall semester, we are focused intently on completing our planning and preparations for our return to an on-campus experience with the beginning of the spring semester on Tuesday, Jan. 19.
It’s important to reiterate that we will offer multiple academic modalities for spring. In most programs, students are able to build an entirely remote class schedule. Additionally, the Office of Human Resources is working with employees on their COVID-19-related workplace accommodations. This approach provides flexibility for our community based on individual needs and personal circumstance.
Spring 2021 COVID-19 testing strategy
The University’s COVID-19 testing strategy, outlined below, represents a critically important component of our spring semester Return to Campus planning. La Salle’s testing protocol, which will continue to be refined as we draw closer to our return, can be framed in three main approaches:
1. Entry testing
Upon returning to campus in January, every student (undergraduate, graduate, and evening), employee, and Christian Brother who plans to live, learn and/or work on campus will be required to take a COVID-19 entry test. Those students and employees who will be fully remote this spring will not require an entry test. Testing will be provided by the University, at no cost to you, at the start of the semester and will take place on campus. Full testing of our population may be implemented, if deemed necessary, at other points in the semester. Further details and instructions will be provided as we get closer to the start of the spring semester.
2. Surveillance testing
The University will administer surveillance testing of asymptomatic individuals throughout the semester. Each week, a portion of our on-campus community will be selected for testing. Any member of our community who is living, learning, and/or working on campus is eligible for selection for surveillance testing. This branch of testing will have additional protocols for our student-athletes, who are training and competing in the spring.
3. Symptomatic testing and exposure testing
Students who experience COVID-19 symptoms will be directed to symptomatic testing on campus. Given the similarity of symptoms, symptomatic students will also be tested for the flu. Similarly, students who have been informed by University contact tracing representatives that they have been exposed to an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19 will be tested on campus. Employees who are symptomatic or have been exposed to an individual who has tested positive will be directed to access testing through their personal health care provider.
We are confident that the comprehensive testing protocol created through a combination of entry, surveillance, symptomatic, and exposure testing will position La Salle for the greatest possible opportunity to detect and contain any positive cases or outbreaks on our campus. We will use a combination of antigen testing (sometimes referred to as rapid testing) and molecular PCR testing that, while considered the most accurate, takes more lab time to process.
But we are going to need your help. As you may have seen in the news, we are now experiencing the greatest number of positive tests, nationally, since the onset of COVID-19 last winter. Simply, this virus is not finished with us yet and we need to continue to relentlessly focus on physical and social distancing, and the use of masks and intense hygiene standards. La Salle is committed to doing our part to keep our community safe and in person next semester, and each of you will need to contribute to that.
As we approach the start of the spring semester, we will share additional directions to those who will be returning to campus in terms of how we expect you to prepare for that return. In short, we will need each of you to enter into a period of quarantine ahead of your scheduled return, so that our entry testing upon return will provide the most accurate diagnosis.
As well, students and employees who will be on campus next semester will be required to contact the university if they:
- test positive for COVID-19; or,
- have had close contact (within six feet for more than 15 minutes over a 24-hour period) with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19; or,
- are experiencing symptoms related to COVID-19.
In these cases, students (firstname.lastname@example.org) and employees (email@example.com) are asked to contact the University, consult with their personal health care providers, and stay at home until you have met the criteria to return.
As you might expect, a comprehensive COVID-19 testing strategy of this scale makes it likely that positive cases will be identified. The University will use the COVID-19 dashboard to notify our community when cases are identified. We will share limited details in an effort to respect the privacy of our students and employees. In addition, we are strengthening our internal contact tracing capacity to notify those La Salle Community members who have been exposed to a positive case. Please consult the COVID-19 FAQ for more information.
The testing strategy outlined here has been developed by our COVID-19 Incident Command Advisory (ICA) and the members of our Health Workstream as a measure to preserve and protect the health of our community and our neighbors in Northwest Philadelphia and beyond. It goes above and beyond what is being required by the City of Philadelphia, however, we know that a commitment to testing is critical to our ability to successfully return to campus. I am thankful for the continued work of the ICA and its related workstreams, in their ongoing response to the pandemic and preparations for the spring semester.
Colleen M. Hanycz, Ph.D.