January 28, 2021

Our Spring Semester COVID Testing Approach

Dear Lewis & Clark community,


As we navigate the ongoing pandemic, we want to share with you how we anticipate monitoring, mitigating, and managing COVID-19 in our community this semester.


After completing re-entry testing of 2,275 persons studying or working on campus, we can say that initial results are encouraging. Thanks to a mix of measurement and behavioral tools: PCR saliva testing, effluent testing, and enhanced social distancing measures, we’re seeing a positivity rate of just 0.26%. The half dozen positive cases with current campus impact are being managed through rapid isolation, contact tracing, and quarantine protocols, as well as support for those living in isolation or quarantine on the campus. We owe a great debt of gratitude to staff, faculty, and students who are working tirelessly to keep our campus as healthy as possible.


Although encouraging, these results cannot allow us to become complacent, especially given the pandemic’s overall trajectory and the recent emergence of new and more transmissible variants of the virus. We must all remain vigilant about maintaining personal health and safety best practices: wear your mask, wash your hands, maintain social distance. In addition, we are beginning the semester with a multi-pronged approach to testing.


Our testing approach is built on three pillars:


  1. Implement surveillance testing: Starting next week, the College will conduct weekly testing clinics for a sampling of persons on campus (e.g., a portion of on-campus students, off-campus students, employees in close contact with students).


  1. Continue effluent testing: Monitoring the wastewater leaving our residential buildings on campus serves as an additional indicator of the presence of virus on campus, an early warning system of sorts. It helps us watch for potential hot spots and will help inform decisions about who should be included in surveillance testing samples.

  2. Learn and adjust: If this pandemic has taught us anything, it is that situations change quickly and we need to remain as flexible and nimble as possible. As we did in the fall semester, we will assess the facts and modify our approach as needed. We will monitor and consider the trajectory of the virus in the metropolitan area. And we will communicate with the campus quickly, regularly, and transparently.


As we work to keep our community safe and healthy, it is imperative that each of us do what is required of us, particularly when it comes to testing. When you are contacted to come in for a PCR saliva test, please do everything in your power to comply. Our approach is designed to be as efficient and sustainable as possible. Tracking down individuals who have not been tested is time-consuming and wasteful. This process goes well only if we all work at the same purpose.


We will continue to monitor the availability of vaccines and will continue to advocate for members of our community to be prioritized as the vaccine rollout moves forward. We know that widespread administration of vaccines is essential to our ability to return to normal.


In the meantime, please watch for and read promptly any emails about testing and respond to any calls you might receive regarding contact tracing. It is more important than ever that we work together to protect ourselves and our community.


Sincerely,


Executive Council