Medical Campus Begins COVID-19 Test Pilot Program
Up to 400 students to be tested this week, with entrance testing for Charles River Campus students starting August 3
- Four-day pilot will test 400 students on the Medical Campus for COVID-19
- Student testing will be prioritized for higher frequencies based on several factors, including living arrangements
- Additional entrance testing on the Charles River Campus will begin August 3
A pilot test of Boston University’s on-campus COVID-19 testing program began on the Medical Campus Monday, July 27, with a four-day run that will test up to 400 students from the Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine and the School of Medicine. Kelly Lockard, Advisory Services associate director, says that following the pilot testing the University hopes to reopen the Medical Campus site in early August to begin surveillance testing of students.
Testing on the Charles River Campus is scheduled to start on August 3 for students approved to arrive early, beginning with international students and resident assistants, and will continue until August 15, when undergraduate move-in begins. Arriving students, whose numbers are limited to about 750 per day, will go into surveillance testing after completing their entrance test, and will be tested every three days at one of four collection sites on the Charles River Campus. Graduate students will initially be tested weekly. Once in full swing, the program will test between 5,000 and 6,000 people per day, seven days a week. (The University will cover the cost of all tests for faculty, staff, and students.)
Judy Platt, director of Student Health Services and chair of BU’s Medical Advisory Group, says certain groups of students will be prioritized for higher testing frequencies based on a variety of factors, including their living arrangements on campus and their interactions with the campus community. (Read more information about testing categories on the Back2BU website.)
The Medical Campus pilot will involve every element of the testing system: the collection site, the technology, the courier, and the lab at the Rajen Kilachand Center for Integrated Life Sciences & Engineering, where tests will be processed. The pilot hopes to test approximately 100 students each weekday from Monday to Thursday this week at the recently equipped collection site in Room R107 in the main Medical School Instructional Building at 72 East Concord Street.
Platt says students arriving from outside of the United States, or from states whose residents Massachusetts health officials recommend be self-quarantined, will be instructed to do so in their assigned rooms on campus or in their residences off campus. During the period of self-quarantine, students should limit their contact with others and stay in their residence unless leaving to pick up food or attend a medical or testing appointment. Prior to travel, all students are urged to limit contact with others and practice frequent handwashing and use of a facial covering during their travels.
The pilot will follow the same procedures as all future testing on the Medical Campus and the Charles River Campus. Test collections will be done with a nasal swab and will be self-administered. They will be observed by a staff member, who will send the swab to the Kilachand lab for analysis. The pilot hopes to provide test results within 24 hours. The University uses a testing method called RT-PCR (reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction), which detects both symptomatic and asymptomatic infections and has a very low false positive rate.
During the fall semester, students will be required to complete a daily web-based survey via Student Health Services Patient Connect that asks if they have experienced any symptoms of COVID-19. Once they complete the survey, students will receive a COVID-19 pass or status message that they may be required to show to enter BU buildings and events. The pass or status message will indicate that they are clear to come to campus if they are asymptomatic, in compliance with the testing schedule, and have recently tested negative for COVID-19. Otherwise, it will indicate that they are overdue for testing/survey or have been advised to stay home until contacted by a medical health professional with instructions.
Students who require testing will be prompted with an email to go to the Patient Connect portal, where they will select an available time slot to schedule their collection test. They will receive an email with a QR code that they will bring to the test collection site and with their appointed time. People who do not report symptoms will also be periodically prompted to schedule a COVID-19 test collection at regular intervals.
BU faculty and staff who test positive will be asked to stay at home and reach out to their primary care physician for further instructions. Student Health Services has quarantine and isolation protocols for all students who have been exposed to the virus or who have COVID-19 symptoms or who have tested positive for COVID-19. In all cases, faculty, staff, and students will receive test results and further instructions, as needed.
Lockard says that like most defenses against COVID-19, BU’s testing plans are designed to be flexible and may change with circumstances.
Find more details about BU’s plans for on-campus testing for coronavirus here.