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.
Earlier this summer, we recognized that, given the positive rates across the country, it would be impossible for Hope to be “COVID-free” for the entire semester. In other words, we knew it wasn’t a matter of if, but when. This was our preparation mindset, and it is why we required the pre-arrival testing and why we are requiring participation in surveillance testing.
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 will help us identify positive cases and monitor the presence of COVID-19 on campus, but by itself will 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 fall semester was required to participate in baseline testing and be available for surveillance testing throughout the remainder of the semester.
- 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 is tailored specifically for the Hope community and informed by the expertise of public health officials and our own faculty and staff. As we look to the fall semester, we recognize that challenges could arise in both the supply chain for testing equipment and the turnaround time for test results, depending on local, state or national conditions. For this reason, it was critical to build a multi-faceted, multi-pronged approach to testing, so that we can be agile and adapt in the face of such challenges. Our multi-pronged testing plan includes the following:
- Baseline Testing
Our goal was to start the academic year with zero cases of COVID-19 on campus. In order to achieve a baseline of zero, students and employees were tested for COVID-19 through an at-home kit sent directly to them.
The kit featured a convenient, medically-supervised saliva screening that could be done, free of charge, at home. The process involved a Zoom call with a testing supervisor, who helped them complete the saliva test and package the sample for overnight shipping to a lab for processing.
Because the at-home test captured the result for only that particular moment in time, the period between the time tests were taken and the time everyone arrived on campus was critical. During this time, students and employees were expected to do everything possible to minimize their risk of exposure to the virus, including practicing all safeguards. For the two weeks prior to arrival on campus, we asked 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.
- Surveillance Testing
Surveillance testing enables us to monitor campus for the presence of the virus. It involves regularly and randomly testing a certain percentage of the campus population in order to collect data and make data-based decisions. Like baseline testing, there is no charge to students for these tests.
Daily Surveillance Testing
Every weekday, we test a 1% sample of the student population. This sample size, recommended by Dr. Kopek, reflects a commitment to conducting successful surveillance and a responsibility to save enough tests for clinical care of individuals. Students are selected for testing at random, and the testing takes place on campus. Dr. Kopek plays a lead role in monitoring the results and identifying trends of infection.
Wastewater Surveillance Testing
As an additional component to surveillance testing, three faculty members from the Natural and Applied Sciences Division — Dr. Aaron Best, Dr. Brent Krueger and Dr. Mike Pikaart — are leading wastewater testing on campus. These three professors have long been involved in water quality research, and this testing is an extension of their work, conducted in partnership with the City of Holland. This kind of testing identifies the virus in wastewater coming from specific residential zones on campus. If the levels of the virus rise in a particular zone, we are conducting follow-up testing of residents. The residential cohort policies help ensure that the wastewater test results are an accurate reflection of the particular residential community within each zone.
- Subset Testing
There may be some groups of individuals, such as student-athletes, that will require testing on a regular basis. We will share information about this as needed.
- Symptomatic Testing
Symptomatic 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 fall semester, this means contacting Hope’s Health Center at email@example.com or 616.395.7585. (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: It is our plan to offer symptomatic testing to employees as well, provided their healthcare provider orders the test and that our available supply of testing materials allows us to do so. Please plan to first pursue testing options through your healthcare provider before arranging for a test at Hope. We regret that, at this time, as we work to secure testing kits for the college, we are not able to commit to testing employees’ family members. We will be providing more details about testing for symptomatic employees, including where on campus employees will be tested, soon.
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 period (July 29–August 18). The “Weekly” numbers will reflect the results of all tests administered by the college — surveillance testing and symptomatic/diagnostic testing — from the prior Monday through the following Sunday.
Surveillance testing, which tests 1% of students every weekday, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org