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Brandeis to introduce pooled testing this fall

This fall the university will be introducing “pooled testing” for the COVID-19 virus, as announced in the Student COVID-19 Training available on LATTE. This new type of testing will be in groups, or pools, of 10 students at a time as opposed to the twice a week individual testing system the university had previously established. 

Previously, students would complete the COVID-19 test through a nose swab, before turning it in to a testing center for analysis, according to a previous Brandeis Hoot article. This process has not changed in the new testing model. 

The difference, beginning later in the fall 2021 semester, is that instead of an individual’s swab being analyzed independently, it will be placed into a tube containing nine other swabs, according to the Student Training. These 10 samples will then be tested all at once. 

In the event that there is a positive case, all 10 students will need to report to the Health Center to take a rapid COVID test, so the university can determine which student in the “pool” tested positive.

 “It is important NOT to panic,” urges the Student Training. “Just because you get a call that there is a positive test in the pool does not mean it is you.” 

These secondary tests will provide results within 15 minutes, after which students who test negative will not be required to quarantine, according to the training module. These students, though, will also be provided with “an individual rtPCR test (nose swab) to be sent for testing overnight to confirm the instant test result.”

Upon arrival to campus, students will not be participating in pooled testing; the university plans to continue its previous means of testing, according to an email sent by Morgen Bergman, Assistant Provost for Strategic Initiatives. However, in preparation for pooled testing the university will be discontinuing take-home kit testing. Take-home kit testing began in the spring 2021 semester. 

Students will be asked to complete the tests on site, like in the fall 2020 semester, according to a previous Brandeis Hoot article

According to Bergman’s email, the university is “continuing to work with the Broad to get up and running with pooled testing, and returning to testing with individual tests on site will help us prepare for this transition.” 

Students who fail to comply with the order to visit the Health Center after someone in their pool has tested positive will be reported to the Dean of Student Offices, as a violation of community policies, according to the training module. 

“You are permitted to miss class or other commitments in order to comply promptly, and the University will support you if your professor or supervisor does not prioritize your instant test. Not complying (not showing up) is a very serious offense and will result in disciplinary action,” according to the training. 

The training module explains that students will receive an email from ProjectBeacon explaining how to set up an account to test and receive results. Students will need to provide their Brandeis address and their phone number—or a guardian’s phone for those under 18—in order to create an account. 

Updates on pooled testing will be sent to the community by Bergman via email, according to her email.

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