At Conn, testing for COVID-19 has become as regular as going to class.
“It is security for me,” Darriana Greer ’21, told MSN.com. “To know that everybody else on campus is being tested twice a week as well, I feel a bit more safe coming to classes.”
The successful outcome of the fall semester is due in part to Conn’s twice-weekly testing and contact-tracing regimen—an aggressive program that was able to arrest the spread of isolated instances of infection before they led to an outbreak. All testing is conducted at Conn’s Athletic Center in Dayton Arena.
“It just became part of everybody’s week to go down to the testing center twice a week,” said Dean of Students Victor Arcelus. “That allowed everyone to be able to do what they did over the course of the semester. Knowing what the positivity rate was on our campus at any given time, it enabled us to hold in-person classes, it enabled us to have student clubs. Our varsity athletes were able to engage in in-person training, and ultimately we were able to do some intrasquad scrimmages.”
The robust testing regiment caught the attention of national media, from U.S. News & World Report to Inside Higher Ed, which highlighted Conn as one of only seven institutions singled out for pandemic response efforts that led to low infection rates and the ability to hold in-person classes and athletic training safely.
However, while testing played a pivotal role in controlling the spread of COVID-19 on campus, Arcelus said that the College could not have solely relied on testing this semester.
“It is not the only piece. If students were not wearing masks, if we were not actively social distancing, then I don’t think the testing would be able to
keep us from having to go to remote,” said Arcelus.
Last summer, Conn contracted with the Broad Institute lab, in Massachusetts, which developed a specific Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) testing program for colleges and universities that provides results within 24 hours of receiving samples in their laboratory. Since August 17, 2020, Conn has conducted more than 50,000 tests with a positivity percentage of 0.23, as of this publication.
“In less than 24 hours, we are getting the result. The doctor gets the result, calls that individual who is positive and immediately starts engaging them in the process of separating from the rest of the community,” said Arcelus.
Conn is using the same testing program during the spring semester.