July 29, 2020 

Important Conn Fall 2020 Information (pre-arrival requirements, campus testing and move-in)

Dear Students,

As August approaches, we are working on myriad details to prepare for the new academic year and to support you, whether you are living on or off campus; or studying on campus or remotely. For those of you coming to campus, we are writing to provide important details about our plans in three main areas—testing, isolation/quarantine housing and campus arrival. Consultation with medical professionals, local and state public health officials, and other colleges and universities has helped inform the comprehensive measures we are taking to create the safest campus environment possible.

The letter that follows is long, but it is designed to help you get ready for the start of what will be a very different fall semester for all of us. Our overall approach to the start of the year is based on a simple premise: We will have the best chance for success if we can identify those of you who may be carrying COVID-19 before you come to campus, as you arrive, in the first couple of weeks in the term, and throughout the semester. It will be important for you to limit your contact with others during the transitional period to campus, especially before arrival and in your first days on campus. This approach will allow us be in the best position to maintain a low prevalence of COVID-19 on campus for the semester.

As you may know, through much of the summer, Connecticut has been among a few states with a low prevalence of COVID-19. Governor Ned Lamont is working with public health officials to continue to slow the spread of the coronavirus, issuing executive orders and state guidance aimed at helping colleges and universities in our state open in the safest and healthiest way possible. We are following this evolving guidance closely, which may further impact the protocols and comprehensive steps we are implementing to keep the prevalence of COVID-19 low.

For example, the State of Connecticut has a Travel Advisory in place for people traveling to Connecticut from a state with high COVID-19 activity with specific implementation language from the Connecticut Department of Public Health. The advisory stipulates that people coming from one of these states are required to quarantine for 14 days after entering the state. As recently as this week, we learned that the state, at the moment, will not recognize a negative test to waive the quarantine requirement because students have the ability to quarantine. Parents/guardians traveling with students do not need to quarantine as long as they are in Connecticut for less than 24 hours. We are working with state officials and other Connecticut colleges and universities to discuss the parameters of the quarantine. At the moment, the quarantine period will be consistent with the onboarding quarantine described later in this letter. We will continue to keep you updated as information becomes available.

Please be advised that those of you who plan to be on campus must complete this important online form before Sunday, Aug. 2. The form asks you about participation in a pre-arrival testing option (explained below), in what state you will be living during the two weeks prior to your arrival on campus and the mode of transportation that you are planning to use to get to campus.

Testing Strategies
There are four different strategies for testing that we will be administering this fall: pre-arrival, onboarding, surveillance and symptomatic. For each, we will use a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) COVID-19 test that is considered the gold standard. The PCR test can determine whether a person is carrying the coronavirus even when symptoms are not present.

Pre-Arrival Testing
We expect all of you who are planning to be on campus this fall to complete a pre-arrival test before moving into your residence hall or off-campus housing. The purpose of the pre-arrival testing is to identify anyone who may be positive for COVID-19 before traveling to campus, so those individuals can stay home, recover, and, if necessary, begin classes remotely.

There are two ways you can complete your pre-arrival test:

  1. You can schedule a test in the area in which you live during the week of Aug. 17, ahead of your arrival day on campus the week of Aug. 24. We encourage you to research options available to you, including community health centers, hospitals, doctor’s offices and pharmacies. Please note that the test you take must be a PCR test (not a blood-based test). It is important that you schedule your test the week of Aug. 17 and ensure that you can obtain the result before traveling to campus. If you do not think it is possible to receive your test result before your assigned arrival date, please use the second option noted below for your pre-arrival test.

  1. You can request to have a PCR test kit mailed to your home directly if you live in the continental United States and have difficulty getting access to a test. We are finalizing our partnership with LetsGetChecked (LGC), which we expect to be completed in the next few days. This partnership will enable us to coordinate with them to send you a test kit in the mail that you will mail back to them for processing. The sample collection is self-administered using a shallow nasal swab, much like a Q-tip. For more information, you can watch this video describing LGC’s at-home sample collection process. 

You will receive the kit in the mail early in the week of Aug. 10. Hold on to the kit and keep it in a safe place until the following week. The College will tell you which day during the week of Aug. 17 that you should collect your sample and send the kit back to LGC. The kit comes with a prepaid envelope that you will need to drop off at a UPS store or other UPS pick-up location (do not place into a UPS drop box). The kit should be sent back to LGC on the same day that the sample is collected. We are working with LGC to coordinate the schedule so that you receive the test result a day or two before your assigned arrival day on campus. LGC will provide results directly to you and to the College within 48 hours of receiving your sample.

If you would like to receive the at-home test kit from LGC, please complete this online form by Sunday, Aug. 2 (log into CamelWeb first in order to have access to this form). If you have questions or any difficulties with the form, please contact the IT Service Desk at (860) 439-4357 (HELP), email help@conncoll.edu or open a Web Help Desk ticket. During the week of Aug. 10, the kit will arrive at the address you provide on the online form. The cost of the kit, test processing and shipping is $130 and will be billed to your student account.

Exceptions to pre-arrival testing by LGC: A test through LGC is not an option for students who live in Hawaii, Alaska, outside the United States or are under the age of 18. If you fall into one or more of these categories and are unable to access a PCR test from home, you will be allowed on campus when you arrive but must remain in quarantine until you have received two negative results based on the tests we administer on campus. The duration of quarantine may be longer if you are coming from a state or a country with a high prevalence of COVID-19 (see on-campus testing and quarantine information below).

Please note: If your pre-arrival test result is positive, you should stay home for at least 10 days from the date of your test to recover. In addition, please be in contact with your primary care physician and also be in touch with Student Health Services so that our medical staff can clear you for arrival on campus. If your test result is negative, you can proceed with move-in. When you arrive on campus, you will need to show a printout of your pre-arrival negative test result.

Onboarding and Surveillance Testing
We are partnering with the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard to conduct onboarding and surveillance testing. All of the costs associated with onboard and surveillance testing will be covered by the College.

The Broad is a nonprofit academic research institution based in Cambridge, Mass. Conn is joining more than 100 institutions in New England that are working with the Broad Institute. The Broad is a CLIA-certified lab and is accredited by the College of American Pathologists. They have developed a specific PCR testing program for colleges and universities that provides results within 24 hours of receiving samples in their laboratory.

The Broad sample collection process is similar to the one provided by LGC—it is self-administered using a shallow nasal swab. However, when the PCR test is administered on campus, it will be an “observed” self-swab process in our testing center. You can learn more about the Broad’s efforts to support COVID-19 testing here, find out how they are helping to understand and overcome COVID-19 here and watch a video that describes their process. (Note that the video shows a person being swabbed by another person to collect the sample. At Conn, the test will be self-administered and will be observed by a trained staff/faculty member).

When you arrive on campus, you will first need to participate in onboarding testing. In addition, we will be conducting surveillance testing, meaning that all students will be tested twice each week. Faculty and staff will also be tested once or twice a week, depending on how many days they are working on campus.

To facilitate the surveillance testing, you will receive an assigned pair of testing days—either Monday/Thursday or Tuesday/Friday. The testing day schedule is based on where you live on campus.

Everyone who is being tested will be asked to download the CoVerified app, which provides easy access to information about testing and allows you to schedule a testing time that works for you on your two assigned testing days. You will receive more information over email in a few weeks about how to download the app and log in using your Connecticut College username and password. It is critically important that you do not miss your testing days. To keep our entire campus community healthy and safe, we need everyone’s commitment to this rigorous testing protocol. Anyone not adhering to the assigned testing schedule will be expected to continue their education remotely.

The frequency of our testing protocol, which far exceeds both state and CDC guidelines, is essential to mitigating the spread of the virus on campus. The twice weekly testing will help identify people with COVID-19 before any symptoms emerge, and identify individuals with COVID-19 but do not have symptoms. Regular and frequent testing will enable the College to isolate anyone testing positive from the rest of the community and immediately initiate contact tracing to identify people who were in close contact with someone who tested positive.

Symptomatic Testing
If you are not feeling well, or suspect you may have symptoms consistent with COVID-19 at any time while living on or off campus, you will be expected to contact Student Health Services. The staff in Student Health Services will be communicating with you in August about the specific protocols they will have in place for in-person and virtual visits.

The staff in Student Health Services will be able to test symptomatic students for COVID-19. This testing will be done in their office and will be billed to insurance if students are on the College’s plan or to families to submit to their own insurance plans. Test results will be sent to a laboratory for analysis. Depending on the symptoms and circumstances, students may be placed in isolation housing on campus, and contact tracing may be initiated while test results are being analyzed.

Isolation/Quarantine Housing
As mentioned above, our twice-per-week testing plan will enable us to identify anyone with COVID-19, separate them from engaging with the broader community and initiate contact tracing immediately so that we can mitigate the spread of the virus on campus. If you test positive for COVID-19, you will receive a phone call from a medical professional notifying you of the positive test result. If you test negative, you will receive notification of your test result through the CoVerified app. We will use isolation housing and quarantine strategies to separate people with COVID-19 and reduce community members’ contact with people who were potentially exposed.

Isolation Housing
Students will be placed in medical isolation if they test positive for COVID-19. Students who show symptoms consistent with COVID-19 but who have not yet received test results will be placed in transition isolation housing. Medical and transition isolation housing is located at River Ridge apartments, Winchester houses and Abbey House.

While in medical and transition isolation housing, students will have full access to wireless internet in their rooms and can continue classes online. Dining Services will provide regular delivery of prepared meals, and Student Health Services staff will also monitor the health and wellbeing of all students through telemedicine.

Quarantine Housing
Quarantine housing will be used when a person has been potentially exposed to COVID-19 and needs to separate from other people as a safeguard in case symptoms develop following the exposure. Students will be placed in contact quarantine if they have had “high risk” contact with a person who is positive for COVID-19 or with a person who shows symptoms consistent with COVID-19. The current guidance on “high risk” contact means a healthy student has been closer than six feet to a person with COVID-19 for 10-15 minutes or more within two days of that person showing symptoms or having a positive test for COVID-19. Students will remain in contact quarantine until their COVID-19 status is known, which is either 14 days or until they test positive for COVID-19.

Students in contact quarantine will remain in their room if they are in a single and will have specific guidance on how to use the community bathroom. If you live in a double, you will be moved to a single. While in contact quarantine, you will be able to leave your room to use the bathroom facilities (following specific protocols), to pick up meals, to report to Student Health Services and to go to the testing center to continue with your twice-per-week testing regimen. A mask/face covering must always be used, and you must maintain at least a six-foot distance from other people. You will also be able to continue your coursework online and participate in campus programs and activities virtually. Student Life staff will periodically be checking in on anyone who is in contact quarantine.

A second type of quarantine is called cautionary quarantine. Individuals, groups or entire communities may be placed in cautionary quarantine. Cautionary quarantine is a state of limited activity or movement. We will require cautionary quarantine any time the prevalence of illness on campus mandates the severe limitation of in-person interactions. Cautionary quarantine includes always being masked when out of your residence hall room, limiting travel on campus, restricting all off-campus travel, and restricting all unnecessary in-person meetings or gatherings. Individuals in cautionary quarantine may still participate in academic activities remotely.

A third type of quarantine that applies to the arrival process is called onboarding quarantine. We will be instituting this quarantine as we bring you back to campus, because it will help the College have a better understanding of the health of the population as we welcome people from all over the country and world back to our campus. The duration of the quarantine may vary depending on people’s individual circumstances, including where they are traveling from and the mode of travel to campus. The parameters for onboarding quarantine may also be influenced by the Governor's executive orders and additional state guidance.

The details related to onboarding quarantine are still in flux as we better understand Connecticut’s requirements for colleges and universities. At the moment, during onboarding quarantine, you will stay in your rooms with limited outings until your quarantine period is completed. In the next section, we describe how this length of time can vary depending on your circumstances.

During onboarding quarantine, you will be able to use the bathroom facilities, pick up meals, report to Student Health Services and go to the testing center for your twice-a-week testing. You will also be able to participate in campus programs and activities virtually. We will have a range of activities for you to engage in. Most of you will be out of onboarding quarantine by the time classes start. If this is not the case for you, you will be able to proceed with your classes virtually until you no longer need to be in quarantine.

This same level of quarantine is expected for students who are commuting to campus from home and living off-campus in rental properties. Students living off-campus must remain in their rental property during onboarding quarantine and not go to any local stores for groceries, etc. This means that students must come to New London prepared to be exclusively in their rental property with the exception of going to the College for testing until they are out of onboarding quarantine. This is critically important as we work to protect the greater New London region during this transition period.

Pre-Arrival and Campus Move-In
Finally, to keep our community healthy at the start of the school year, and to prevent you from contracting COVID-19 before arrival, we are asking all students to self-quarantine for 14 days prior to arriving on campus (the weeks of Aug. 10 and 17). During this time, you should follow the same protocols that will be in place on campus when you arrive—wear a mask/face covering at all times, maintain social distancing, wash your hands and avoid opportunities for contagion.

This self-quarantine means that you should not attend parties/gatherings or go into spaces with a lot of people. During this period of time, you should only have close contact with the people you are living with at home. Keep in mind that it is during the week of Aug. 17 that you will be completing your pre-arrival test and receiving your result. A negative result in the last couple of days before you leave home does not clear you for close contact with people outside your home as you say goodbye to friends and others in your community. In fact, you should actively try to maintain your health status clear of COVID-19 in those final days to facilitate a smooth transition onto campus. We realize that this will be particularly difficult, especially for first-year students, as you prepare to leave your home community to come to Conn.

By self-quarantining, you are increasing the chances that you can return to campus and not be relocated to isolation housing to start the semester. If too many students come to campus carrying COVID-19 because they didn’t take precautions prior to arrival, it could negatively affect our ability to deliver an in-person semester for everyone. In other words, your choices and behavior could affect the entire community.

As noted earlier, we are expecting everyone to be tested during the week of Aug. 17, with very few exceptions. The duration of your onboarding quarantine will vary depending on your pre-arrival testing and the state and the country from which you are traveling. We are also in the midst of evaluating whether the duration of onboarding quarantine is impacted by the mode of travel to campus (e.g. traveling by plane). Below are some scenarios that you can review to understand your possible circumstances.

  • I am arriving to campus having been tested during the week of Aug. 17 and I have the result in hand. What happens next and how long is my onboarding quarantine? You will be tested on campus when you arrive and you will stay in onboarding quarantine until this first test result is received by the College. It should take 1-2 days to receive the result. If the test result is negative, you can leave onboarding quarantine. If it is positive, you will be moved to medical isolation housing or go home to recover.
  • I am in one of the exception groups and could not get the LetsGetChecked at home test and was not able to get tested in my home area. Can I come to Conn and move into my housing? Yes, you can move in, but your onboarding quarantine will be longer since you do not have a pre-arrival test result in hand when you get to Conn. When you arrive on campus, you will be tested and will then go into onboarding quarantine. You will stay in quarantine until the College receives your second test result, which will take 5-6 days from your arrival day. Assuming that the first test is negative, if the second test result is also negative, then you can leave onboarding quarantine. If either test is positive, you will be moved to medical isolation housing or go home to recover.
  • I am currently living in one of the states that Connecticut identified as a state with high COVID-19 activity. What are my options? There are essentially three options you have for your transition to Conn in August:
    • If you are able to spend the two weeks before arrival to Conn in a state that is not listed as a state with high COVID-19 activity, and you have received a negative pre-arrival test, then you can begin your semester with a brief onboarding quarantine until your first on campus test result is received. Be aware, of course, that the list of travel advisory states will likely continue to change through the month of August.

    • If you have received a negative pre-arrival test, you can come to Conn from the travel advisory state and be tested again on arrival. You will continue with the testing regimen while in onboarding quarantine for 14 days.

    • You can begin your semester remotely, staying at home until your state is no longer on the travel advisory list and then come to the College.

In each of these scenarios, when you arrive in New London, your first task is to complete your onboarding test in our testing center located in the Athletic Center. The testing center has three stations:

  1. An outdoor station where you will blow your nose.

  2. A station in Dayton Arena where you will register and receive your test kit with a personalized label.

  3. A station in Dayton Arena where you will be observed while self-swabbing and sealing your sample. You will then drop the sample in a basket and leave the testing center.

Once testing is completed, you can pick up your key and ID, if necessary, at the Athletic Center and begin moving in. You may have one person assist you with moving into your room and you both will have one and a half hours to move into your space. You and this person must wear a mask/face covering at all times and maintain a six-foot distance from other people. After the move-in process, you will remain in your room in onboarding quarantine as noted earlier. More details about the virtual engagement opportunities and community meetings offered during these first few days will be shared with you in August.

We know this is a lot of information to digest. All of us are exercising patience as we navigate changing state and federal guidance. Most important: We are here to support you! Please send any questions you have about this letter to Fall2020SafeReturn@conncoll.edu and we will keep sending updates.

We hope this message makes one thing abundantly clear: We are eager to have you back on campus and to see you through a safe, healthy, engaging and intellectually stimulating semester.

Sincerely,

Victor Arcelus
Dean of Students

John McKnight
Dean of Institutional Equity and Inclusion

Jefferson Singer
Dean of the College