Although COVID-19 is more prevalent in Connecticut than in the fall, colleges and universities are forging ahead with reopening plans for the spring semester — albeit with significantly more testing planned.
“In the first seven days they will be tested three times with results and during that seven days it will be a quarantine,” said Sal Cintorino, chief operations officer at Central Connecticut State University. “It will be very structured and isolated to give us a quality environment.”
In the fall, CCSU students needed to show a negative test result within 14 days of move-in before arriving on campus.
“We have learned from that,” Cintorino said. “You can test today and four days from now you can be positive.”
Every CCSU resident-student, student-athlete, and residence hall staff member will be tested every week through March, as opposed to 25% of that population tested each week during the fall semester.
The increased frequency and prioritization of testing is a pattern at other schools in the state.
At the University of Connecticut, the number of tests administered is projected to increase from 42,000 during the fall semester to 75,000 this spring, according to UConn Today. The university will employ multiple testing strategies including “pool testing” which will help them identify clusters of cases in residence halls.
“They spit into a small vial we’ve provided and we pool the saliva into one larger sample for testing,” said Michael Enright, UConn deputy spokesperson. “If a pooled test comes back positive, we then go back and conduct individual tests on those who were part of the pool.”
UConn will also be testing the wastewater from toilets flushed around campus for the presence of COVID-19 particles in feces.
“We’re adding some testing spots around academic buildings, in addition to residence halls, to get a sense of where the virus might be showing up,” Enright said.
Eastern Connecticut State University is employing a strategy similar to what took place last semester for arrival testing. Students have to show up with a negative COVID-19 test taken within 14 days of arrival on campus, said Edward Osborn, director of marketing services at ECSU, and then after that, 100% of students will be tested every week.
“The difference will be we will then test all of our residential students over a two-day period,” Osborn said. “They will then have a limited or soft quarantine for the first week. They will be able to go to class.”
At CCSU, students moved in a week before classes started to allow for a full seven days of quarantine.
“We didn’t want to start the semester with everyone remote.” Cintorino said. “There is so much virtual fatigue as it is. This first week with them coming early we will create the quarantine and seven days later we will start the (weekly) testing protocol.”
Both ECSU and CCSU said all students will be tested every week until at least March, at which time health officials will reevaluate the persistence of COVID-19 in the area and the possibility of increased vaccinations.
“Even though the vaccine is around the corner, this is no time to let our guard down,” Osborn said.
Earlier this month the Department of Public Health issued guidance to colleges in anticipation of the Spring semester.
Other University Testing Plans Across The State
Students must arrive on campus with a negative COVID-19 test. The tests were mailed to students earlier this year and students are assigned a date to take the test and mail it in.
Upon arrival to campus, students will be tested again.
All students will be tested every week through Feb. 28.
Students must provide a negative PCR test taken within five business days of arrival.
Those who tested positive for COVID-19 within 90 days of arriving to school are exempt from testing.
Random testing of residential students will take place throughout the semester with the help of a partnership with Yale called “SalivaDirect.”
All students are tested on the day they arrive on campus.
Going forward, students will be tested twice weekly.
Administration will reduce frequency of testing if transmission is low.
Prior to arrival Connecticut College students are asked to isolate from Jan. 21 through Feb. 4 or 5. Then they take a pre-arrival test and mail it in.
Students with last names L-Z arrive on campus on Feb. 4, and complete their first on-campus test.
Students with last names A-K arrive on campus on Feb. 5, and complete their first on-campus test.
Classes start entirely online on Feb. 8, and students quarantine that week while being tested again.
Students will return to campus in two staggered waves after a negative COVID-19 test. Tests must be taken and mailed in five days before the planned move-in date.
All students will be tested in a predesignated schedule before returning to in-person learning when they arrive on campus.
Regular testing will continue as conducted last semester.
Residential students must have a negative COVID-19 test before moving into campus.
A “small percentage” of students will be randomly tested each week.
Classes will be held in a virtual format, according to the university website.
Students will be required to take a pre-arrival test.
After moving in, all students will be assigned to a twice-weekly testing schedule for the duration of the semester.