Testing protocols during COVID-19

Protocols for testing, tracing, and isolation of students

The College community will adhere to a specific set of testing, tracing, quarantine and notification protocols as we return to residence this fall.

How we’ve prepared

The College has developed protocols, consistent with the recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the American Health Association, and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, for contact tracing and establishing spaces to isolate any student who tests positive for COVID-19. We have also developed plans to appropriately quarantine students who have been exposed to COVID-19 to decrease transmission and prevent outbreaks. Additionally, various community members across campus have completed training this summer through Johns Hopkins University to conduct contact tracing in accordance with World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines.

Our goal is to minimize the possibility of an escalation of positive cases on campus through mitigation, on-campus testing, and contact tracing with quarantine plus isolation. As they are identified, all cases will be reported to the state Department of Health for ongoing consultation and guidance.

The campus COVID-19 leadership team will monitor ongoing COVID-19 related infections and transmissions at the campus, local, and state levels and adjust campus activities accordingly. Although there are no industry standards or regulations about conditions that trigger an evacuation of a building, a campus facility, or the campus as a whole, the College will continue to monitor the level of risk and take reasonable precautions as needed to protect students, faculty, and staff.

Monitoring and mitigation

All students and employees will be responsible for monitoring their health on a daily basis and will be provided information about what to do if they feel ill or are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. The College Health Center will provide testing for symptomatic students, as can the local hospital, which is prepared for the capacity of the College community. The College intends to provide both random and targeted testing of students (a process known as “surveillance testing”) to monitor the health of the community.

Testing plan

Regular and ongoing testing of students for COVID-19 is one of the most important steps colleges are taking to protect the health and safety of their students, faculty, and staff when they reopen their campuses this fall. Being proactive about screening students both upon arrival and throughout the year is one way we can protect the broader population at the college and the residents in the Borough of Gettysburg.

We have been able to secure testing for all students with Contamination Source Identification (CSI). They are located in Huntingdon, PA, and are supporting a number of higher education institutions in PA as well as regional nursing homes and hospitals. Partly because of their physical proximity to our campus, as well as their commitment to serve regional institutions primarily, they are able to provide turnaround times for test results of approximately 48 hours. The tests we have acquired are highly reliable PCR tests, with 98.7% sensitivity. Because access to testing is so critical, we intend to add a second testing lab as a partner in the near term, to provide backup. Although we understand that not all institutions of higher education have been able to access this testing, our size, location, and personal contacts have allowed us to do this.

Students will initially receive a mouth swab test on the cheek/tongue/back of throat, administered by a clinician. This test is not unpleasant to go through. This is an FDA-approved, standard COVID-19 test for parts of the genome of the virus by the polymerase chain reaction technique. We believe this is the most rapid, reliable testing that could be done, as opposed to the 15- to 30-minute turnaround point of care, rapid tests which produce false negatives. We will not be conducting COVID-19 antibody testing at the Health Center.

The College has increased the staffing for the Health Center by adding a COVID Case Manager/RN and one medical assistant. Athletic Trainers and staff in Residence Life are prepared to assist with contact tracing and care management on an as needed basis. Health Center hours will be extended to Saturday hours and evening hours as needed to respond to student needs. Well students will be seen in the morning and ill students in the afternoon. There will be two negative airflow rooms in the Health Center. Additionally, this semester, Health Center visit fees and COVID-19 tests, aside from those requiring a lab, will be waived. We have also developed a testing plan that includes:

  • Baseline testing of all students upon a return to campus in August.
  • Ongoing testing throughout the semester. The College will continue to regularly test students throughout the semester. Three types of testing will be implemented throughout the semester:
    • Testing through the Health Center for those with COVID-19 symptoms.
    • Testing for those identified as close contacts (less than six feet for more than 15 minutes) to someone who tests positive.
    • Surveillance testing, which will be ongoing after the initial tests at intervals throughout the semester. The frequency will be determined by the results of the first round of testing, contact tracing, and the rate of symptomatic students. Students should expect to be tested at certain times when they return for the semester. Please note that students who are tested as part of the ongoing monitoring testing program, or surveillance testing as it is called, will NOT be required to quarantine until the results return as was required with the testing conducted as we opened the College the week of August 10. Students who are tested as a result of symptoms or students who are identified as direct contacts of a positive case through the Contact Tracing process will have to follow the instructions provided by Health Services which includes isolation and quarantine.

This plan for testing will be supplemented by self-screening for all students, including regular health checks in conjunction with the Health Center. All students will be expected to:

  • Pre-screen themselves before returning to Gettysburg
  • Self-quarantine at home for two weeks before and during travel back to campus
  • Engage in daily ongoing health monitoring throughout the semester

Read the official email to students, which discusses the testing plan in more detail.

Contact tracing, quarantine, and isolation

Students who have a positive COVID-19 test and/or symptoms of COVID-19 will be required to go into isolation to protect the health and wellbeing of the rest of the community. If that happens, the College will move you to an isolation room with its own bathroom off campus. You will then be required to stay in that room until (1) at least ten days have passed since your symptoms begin, (2) you have not had fever for 72 hours (3 days), and (3) you no longer have symptoms. During isolation, you may not leave your room except if directed to do so by a member of the College staff. As with quarantine, the College will bring food to you, take care of your laundry, and make sure you can continue your courses online; staff from the Student Health Service will perform medical checks as often as necessary. If your symptoms worsen, the College will make sure you have appropriate medical attention, including, if necessary, hospitalization.

If a student tests positive for COVID-19, whether through Health Services or at the hospital or urgent care center contact tracing will begin. The contact tracer (either an RN case manager from Student Health, or a public health contact tracing officer) will interview the student who tested positive and find out all the people that student has been in close contact with over the time that the student may have been exposed, infected, and become infectious. The list of contacts include staff and faculty who had been within six feet of the student for more than 10-15 minutes. If so, the contact tracer would get in touch with the staff or faculty member immediately, notify them that she/he had been named as a close contact by a student who tested positive, and refer the staff or faculty member to their personal healthcare provider for assessment. They would also instruct the staff or faculty member to leave campus and quarantine at home for 14 days with medical monitoring.

Quarantine versus isolation

Quarantine and isolation are important mitigation efforts that can help contain the spread of COVID-19. Both terms refer to separating someone from the rest of the community for a time because that person may have been infected with the virus (quarantine) or has symptoms of COVID-19 and/or has a positive COVID-19 test (isolation).

  • Quarantine: Students who are quarantining due to Move-In testing can obtain meals at designated grab-and-go locations on campus. After this initial testing, if you are required to quarantine because you may have been exposed to the virus, or because you are waiting for the results of a COVID-19 test to come back, you must stay in your room, or another room that the College will provide for you temporarily, and not associate or gather with others. The College will work out food arrangements with you, and staff from the Student Health Service will check on you at least daily. You can continue with your classes online. If you are quarantined because of possible exposure, you will need to remain in quarantine for 14 days. If you are quarantined because you are waiting for test results, you can stop quarantine when you get a negative test result. If your test is positive, though, you will have to go into isolation.
  • Isolation: Students who have a positive test and/or symptoms of COVID-19 will be required to go into isolation to protect the health and wellbeing of the rest of the community. If that happens, the College will move you to an isolation room with its own bathroom off campus. You will then be required to stay in that room until all of the following conditions have been met:
    1. at least ten days have passed since your symptoms begin, and
    2. you have not had fever for 72 hours (3 days), and
    3. you no longer have symptoms.
    During isolation, you may not leave your room except if directed to do so by a member of the College staff. The College will bring food to you, take care of your laundry, and make sure you can continue your courses online; staff from the Student Health Service will perform medical checks as often as necessary. If your symptoms worsen, the College will make sure you have appropriate medical attention, including, if necessary, hospitalization.

Campus notification

The College will assess each report of a COVID-19 case individually, based on the circumstances at the time, and decide whether the report represents a broader health and safety threat to the campus community. In that case, a notification will be sent alerting students who are currently on campus and all employees. Additionally, the community will be informed of any significant updates or changes in cases, such as multiple reported cases, signs of community spread, etc.

Persons who have been in close contact with anyone testing positive for COVID-19 will be individually notified by the Health Center as a function of contact tracing. Those individuals will be advised to quarantine and monitor their symptoms.

Close contact: Close contact is defined as being within approximately six feet (two meters) of someone who has COVID-19 for more than 10 minutes. Close contact can occur while caring for, living with, visiting, or sharing a healthcare waiting area or room with someone who has COVID-19 OR having direct contact with infectious fluids from a person who has COVID-19 (e.g., being coughed or sneezed on, sharing utensils, keyboard, writing instruments).

When any member of the campus community is found to have COVID-19, the College will work with trained College staff and Pennsylvania Department of Health officials to screen and assess with whom the community member has been in contact, in which areas of campus, and when they were last on campus. With this information, the College will alert those who have been in “close contact” as defined by the CDC, and will require those individuals to quarantine themselves for 14 days; the College will provide rooms for students who are in quarantine; employees must quarantine at home. The College will monitor the health status for students in quarantine and take steps to permit students to continue their academic progress. Students who are quarantined must remain confined to their immediate surroundings during the period of quarantine. Additionally, the College will alert Facilities Services to do a deep cleaning of the impacted areas.

Campus status updates

The College will send an email every Monday to students, parents, faculty, staff and administrators with the current status on campus. The email will include the number of positive cases on campus and any additional precautions or changes the College is making to protect the health and safety of our community members. This information will also be available on the Better Together website.

  • COVID-19 Student health agreement – To return to residence this fall, students must review and agree to the following agreement which regarding personal and public health practices, social events, and what to do if you experience symptoms of COVID-19.
  • Health guidelines for students and staff – Students and employees must adhere to pre-arrival and daily health guidelines when returning to campus this fall. We are also providing resources to help all members of the community, especially those at higher risk.
  • Official messages from July, 2020 – Many of the details discussed on this page were communicated through emails sent in July, 2020.