Univ. partners with Broad Institute for campus-wide coronavirus testing COVID testing partnership with Broad Institute University COVID testing plans for fall 2020

August 28, 2020

The university’s testing frequency for the coronavirus will be dependent on how often an individual is on campus per week, according to the university’s testing page.

Members of the Brandeis community living on campus and individuals who come to campus three or more times a week are required to get tested twice a week, or every three to four days. Individuals who visit campus once or twice a week are required to take one test a week and those who do not visit campus on a regular basis are required to get a test every time they visit, according to the testing page. The university is administering tests which assess asymptomatic individuals within the community.  

The university has multiple testing sites including the Admissions Building and the Heller School, according to the university’s testing portal. The tests will be sent to the Broad Institute, in Cambridge, MA, to check if COVID-19 is present, according to the article

The university has administered 3,000 tests having identified three positive COVID-19 results, according to an Aug. 14 email from President Ron Liebowitz. The university expects to process up to 1,200 tests per day. As of Aug. 27, the university has conducted almost 8,000 tests from over 3,400 unique individuals with a total of six positive cases since July 14, according to Brandeis’ COVID dashboard. This equates to a 0.05 percent positivity rate as of Aug. 25, with the Massachusetts positivity rate at 1.08 percent as of Aug. 25. 

If a student tests positive for the coronavirus, they will be isolated and will communicate with contact tracers to determine individuals deemed within close contact with the person who tested positive, according to Liebowtiz. 

In order to get tested, members of the community must first make an appointment online using the university testing portal, according to the testing information page. Appointment times are offered in half-hour windows, according to a BrandeisNOW article, and when you arrive you must check in with staff who will give you a sample tube with a swab. Then you are assigned to medical personnel who guide you in how to administer the swab test to yourself. 

Members of the community must take the swab and insert it into both nostrils, swirling it around to ensure the test has been administered properly, according to the article. After the test, the university will provide hand sanitizer for the subject and then the medical personnel cleans the surface for the next appointment.

On the university testing portal, members of the community must also indicate how often they are on campus, in order to determine how often they should receive testing. The portal is where one must complete their daily health assessment as well. The Daily Health Assessment must be completed by those who are arriving on campus or are residential members, according to the assessment tool

The survey asks whether the individual has had any symptoms of COVID-19 including: fever, shortness of breath, cough, muscle aches, chills, headache, sore throat, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and loss of taste or smell, according to the survey. The individual is also asked whether they have been in close contact with a person who has received a positive test result, or is presumed to have it, according to the survey. An individual must also indicate on this survey whether they have spent the last 14 days outside of the exempt states under the Massachusetts State Guidelines which include: Maine, Connecticut, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York and Vermont, as of print time. 

The Broad Institute in March 2020 converted their labs into a COVID-19 testing facility; since then the lab has processed over 400,000 COVID-19 tests, according to their website. The Broad Institute works with hospitals, clinics, nursing homes and homeless shelters, as well as colleges and universities. The Broad Institute’s partnership with the university provides pre-assembled test kits, which contain tubes and swabs. The test processing will return results within a 24 hour window of the receipt, according to their Fall 2020 College and University Testing Discussion page on their website

The Broad Institute is providing the university with an asymptomatic community testing program, according to the university’s Student Quarantine and Isolation Policy and Procedures page.  The program provides the university with testing swabs which are self administered and act as an initial screening to determine whether an individual has COVID-19. If an individual were to test positive on the initial screening test, they would then have to receive a follow-up exam which must be administered by a medical professional to confirm the positive test result, according to the page. The diagnostic test must confer with the initial screening to confirm whether a person has the virus or not.

The Broad Institute’s tests are intended for the use of detecting SARS-CoV-2 infection in the acute phase of infection, according to the Broad Institute’s COVID-19 Testing at Broad page. Positive test results on the initial screening indicate an active infection with SARS-CoV-2; however, they do not confirm co-infections with other viral or bacterial diseases, according to the page.

Testing at the university began on July 27 with the beginning phase of pilot testing. These tests were administered at the Shapiro Science Center to asymptomatic members of the community after they had scheduled an appointment online through the university’s scheduling portal. The pilot testing phase increased its number of tests leading up to the start of the academic year and return of students to campus. 

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