The COVID-19 testing that Messiah required for all undergraduate residential and commuter students on Sept. 10-11 provided an important understanding of the health of our on-campus student body. The results were encouraging with just one positive result out of the 2,254 tests administered. However, it is essential that our campus community continues to follow the University’s COVID-19 safety measures to reduce its spread on our campus.
Introducing representative sampling testing for on-campus undergraduate students
To this end, Messiah will be introducing required representative sampling COVID-19 testing for its undergraduate residential and commuter students starting the week of Oct. 5. This testing, which will be ongoing throughout the fall semester, will allow Messiah University to systematically sample the on-campus student population to monitor the spread of COVID-19—without having to test every person within the population. The purpose of this testing is to remain informed about the health of our on-campus community, to monitor trends of COVID-19 cases, and to help detect outbreaks before they occur. Consistent with preventative measures that other colleges and universities are using across the country, Messiah is integrating this type of testing as part of its commitment to remain open for a safe and healthy in-person educational, residential experience for the remainder of the fall semester.
How will it work?
The University will use a stratified random sampling method to select 10 percent of the undergraduate in-person student population every 1-2 weeks for testing (approximately 230 undergraduate students in each testing cycle). Athletes may be subject to more frequent testing due to their close physical proximity during practices and training. Selected students will receive an email with instructions on when to report to Brubaker Auditorium for their test; the University will be using a mid-nasal PCR test with a >95 percent sensitivity. Results are expected in about 2-3 days, and students will be notified of their test results directly and confidentially via email.
Is this testing required for on-campus undergraduate students?
Yes, this testing is mandatory for the undergraduate residential and commuter students who are included in the sampling method and are selected to participate.
Are any undergraduate students excluded from the sampling/testing?
The majority of on-campus undergraduate students will be included in the sampling method for this testing, with the following limited exceptions (for a variety of logistical and data factors): dual-enrolled students and other minor-aged students; graduate students and employees enrolled in an undergraduate course; students who are already in quarantine/isolation housing (on and off campus); students who have received a positive test result within the last 30 days; and any students who have been tested within the last three weeks. Fully remote students are not part of this testing.
What if a student receives a positive test result during testing?
If a positive test result is received, the individual will be notified, provided isolation housing, and regular contact tracing protocols will be followed. Depending on the outcome of contact tracing, we may test additional students from the population group from which that positive result was drawn.
Do students need to quarantine/isolate when participating in testing?
No, participating in this representative sampling testing does not mean a student will need to isolate or quarantine. Students will only quarantine/isolate if they are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, test positive for COVID-19, or are identified as a close contact to someone who received a positive a positive test result.
Is it possible that a student could be selected more than once for testing?
Any student who has been selected for a previous testing cycle within the prior three weeks will not be selected for a current testing cycle. This will reduce the odds of students being selected multiple times for testing. However, because the University is using a stratified random sampling method, and is testing every 1-2 weeks through the end of the fall semester, it is possible that a student could be selected for testing more than once.