An Update on COVID-19 Testing and Monitoring
September 12, 2020
Dear College of Arts & Sciences Community,
I want to update you on how Lewis & Clark is approaching COVID-19 monitoring and testing, what we’re seeing from those efforts thus far, and what we can expect as results come in periodically. The upshot: so far we’re doing well. We currently have no positive COVID-19 cases on campus that we are responding to. But we must not let our guard down. We must continue to engage in the safe and healthy behaviors that got us here.
In our monitoring and testing efforts, our focus is on speed, accuracy, and coordination. We are using a number of tools to monitor, identify, confirm, and manage appearances of coronavirus.
Saliva Testing: Nearly all undergraduate students studying on campus participated in the Health Service COVID-19 Testing Clinics between August 24 and September 4. The goal of the clinics was to identify any asymptomatic cases of COVID among students, to guide those students into a supported isolation experience, and to limit any potential spread of disease within our community. We have conducted 1,705 COVID-19 PCR saliva tests of undergraduates. One came back positive, a rate of 0.06 percent. (That student has already cleared quarantine.) We are able to do additional saliva testing when required. We recently retested our Forest Complex and West Hall students. Almost all of those test results are back, and all of those tests are negative.
Effluent Testing: We have also begun what is called “effluent testing,” the testing of the wastewater leaving residence hall sewer lines. Lewis & Clark has partnered with Clean Water Services to conduct sewer surveillance of the College’s residential facilities. We will monitor the results closely and take appropriate responsive actions as necessary, based on all of the circumstances. Such actions may include requiring some level of self-isolation in residential facilities and/or individual testing.
Positive Case Protocols: In the event of a positive case, we coordinate on-campus responders and off-campus resources quickly and systematically. That focus on timely information-sharing is key to mitigating the community spread of the virus, as well as minimizing the impact to the COVID-positive individual.
In addition to having trained staff on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, we have implemented Case Review Teams. These CRTs review positive cases, notify appropriate campus offices (academic support, student housing, dining services, facilities, etc.), and advise senior administrators on next steps regarding communicating with community members and mitigating spread.
Positive test results trigger our self-isolation and quarantine policies and contact-tracing procedures. Students in isolation are those who have had a positive COVID test. Students in quarantine have had exposure to a close contact. There will also be students who are self-isolating, as they await medical assessment, initial testing, or confirmatory testing. Contact tracing means calling people who may have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 to provide guidance and support. It’s a key tool for preventing the spread of the COVID-19 virus. In the wake of any confirmed case of COVID-19 among a community member, Wellness Services staff will be working to identify “close contacts,” generally those who have been within six feet of the infected person for 15 minutes or more. Wellness staff will work with County Health Department personnel to notify anyone who is deemed at risk because of exposure as a “close contact,” whether the site of that contact was in a residence hall, a classroom, or elsewhere.
Summary: As I said at the top, so far so good. Our systems are working, and, over the coming days and weeks, we will continue general testing of the campus community. But we must all continue to be proactive about monitoring our own health and possible symptoms, and we must continue to practice safe and healthy behaviors. Colleagues of mine at other schools have shared stories of good testing results like ours that have caused people to relax, students deciding it was fine to participate in parties and large gatherings, to not always socially distance, to be lax about face coverings, to not wash their hands or disinfect surfaces–and then an outbreak happens. Please let’s not allow that on our campus. Let’s keep up the good work!
As always, WeB4Me@LC.
Vice President of Student Life and Dean of Students