We know that we will have cases of COVID-19 on Hope’s campus. Our goal is to mitigate the spread of the virus when those cases occur.
Early in the summer, we recognized that given the positive rates across the country, it would be impossible for Hope to be “COVID-free” for the entire academic year. In other words, we knew it wasn’t a matter of if, but when.
Testing is an important part of Hope’s mitigation plan, and we believe it will help us maintain a safe and healthy campus community. It is not, however, a stand-alone strategy. Regular testing helps us identify positive cases and monitor the presence of COVID-19 on campus, but by itself does not keep the campus resilient. That will happen only if all students and employees work together to maintain a culture of wellness and accountability by:
- Participating in testing. Every student and employee who is taking classes, living and/or working on campus during the academic year is required to participate in baseline testing before each semester and be available for surveillance testing throughout the remainder of the semesters.
- Practicing safeguards. Following the safeguards greatly reduces one’s risk of both becoming sick and needing to quarantine due to possible exposure. It also will reduce the risk of overwhelming Hope’s testing capacity.
- Avoiding complacency. A negative test result, while always good news, can give a false sense of security. Please resist the temptation to become lax in practicing the safeguards, especially following a negative result.
The Testing Plan
Our testing plan for the spring semester is again tailored specifically for the Hope
community. Dr. Ben Kopek, associate professor of biology, continues to lead the college’s
testing program and serve as primary consultant to the testing team.
Our goal was to build a testing strategy that allows for successful surveillance of asymptomatic individuals while also maintaining enough tests for diagnosis and clinical care of symptomatic individuals. To that end, many of the factors that we weighed for the fall testing plan were still important considerations. For example, we remain concerned about possible disruptions in the availability of test supplies and the turnaround time for test results. In order to navigate these potential challenges, the spring plan uses different kinds of tests and different labs.
The college’s testing strategy consists of the following:
- Baseline Testing
Our goal was to start each semester with zero cases of COVID-19 on campus. In order to achieve a baseline of zero, students and employees will be tested in advance of their return to campus.
Pre-Arrival Testing for Students
Over the Christmas break, students will complete a pre-arrival saliva test using an at-home Vault Health kit. The test kits are being distributed to students prior to departing campus. Like the pre-arrival screening in August, this process will involve a Zoom call with a Vault supervisor, who will help them complete the test then package the sample for overnight shipping to a lab for processing. All students should complete their test 8–10 days before arrival on campus, no later than January 2. Students unable to do so will be tested upon arrival on campus January 9–11.
Pre-Arrival Testing for Employees
During January 4–11, Hope’s testing center will conduct on-arrival testing for all Hope College and Creative Dining employees who will be working on campus during the spring semester.
Timing of Pre-arrival Tests
Because the at-home test captures the result for only that particular moment in time, we are again asking all students and employees to commit 100% to minimizing travel, limiting social engagements, wearing a face covering, practicing distancing, and washing hands well and frequently for the two weeks prior to arrival on campus.
- Surveillance Testing
Surveillance testing enables us to monitor campus for the presence of COVID-19. For our spring surveillance strategy, we will replace the 1% sample of all students with a wastewater-driven surveillance model. Guided by a team of Natural and Applied Sciences faculty, the college will continue to use wastewater samples to monitor nine residential zones on campus. Using wastewater signals, the testing team will determine which segments of the campus population should be tested every weekday. There also will be random testing for students not living within the wastewater zones. Surveillance testing will continue for student-athletes, if that is the ongoing recommendation of the NCAA. Given our comprehensive surveillance strategy, it is possible, and perhaps even likely, that students will be tested more than once during the semester.
Please know that some agencies have proposed that a positive test can be reversed by a subsequent negative test. However, due to the unique aspects of Hope's residential, in-person experience, our local health department has provided guidance against such practices.
- Subset Testing
There are some groups of individuals, such as student-athletes, that require testing on a regular basis. We will share information about this as needed.
- Symptomatic Testing
Symptomatic testing, sometimes called "diagnostic testing" is reserved for individuals who are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19. (Baseline and surveillance testing are both considered asymptomatic testing.) Anybody who experiences symptoms should contact their healthcare provider. For Hope students during the academic semesters, this means contacting Hope’s Health Center at firstname.lastname@example.org or 616.395.7585 to report symptoms and schedule a test. The Health Center staff will administer the test on site. (Please be sure always to contact the Health Center first — do not arrive at the center without prior communication.)
Your healthcare provider will provide instruction on next steps, which may include testing.
- Students: If the Hope College Health Center recommends a test for a student, the Health Center staff will administer the test on site. At that time, the staff member will explain to the student exactly what they need to do following the test.
- Employees: Please contact your health provider if you think you need to be tested for COVID-19 or visit the Ottawa County testing locations website. At many test sites, no referral is needed but an appointment is required.
We are updating our results — weekly and total — every Monday at hope.edu/coronavirus. These results are reported in aggregate and not at the individual level. The “Total” numbers are inclusive of our pre-arrival-testing periods. The “Weekly” numbers reflect the results of all tests administered by the college — surveillance testing and symptomatic/diagnostic testing — from the prior Monday through the following Sunday.
For the fall semester, surveillance testing began on Wednesday, August 19; this was the start date for reporting both surveillance test results and symptomatic/diagnostic test results. The first full week of surveillance testing and symptomatic/diagnostic testing began on Monday, August 24.
Test results are also being reported to state and local health departments as required. We will not disclose names or any other details (employee/student, buildings occupied, etc.) of individuals who have been tested or are presumed positive, as we have a responsibility to maintain privacy and confidentiality.
COVID-19 RESPONSE TEAM STEERING COMMITTEE
Submit questions about Hope’s preparation for COVID-19 to email@example.com