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Important Changes to COVID Testing—Starting Monday September 6

DEPARTMENT(S): 
September 5, 2021

This message was sent to the WPI community September 5, 2021

The purpose of this message is to share important changes to WPI’s approach to COVID testing, effective immediately (starting Monday, September 6, 2021). But first, I want to thank everyone who is taking our message from Friday to heart -- toning down their off-campus activities and reducing close contacts. That remains essential as we seek to decrease our COVID case numbers.

Another important tool to manage COVID is testing, which enables us to identify individuals who contract COVID, physically isolate them to reduce spread, and ensure they are cared for and supported as needed. A reminder that because we have such a highly vaccinated community, individuals who test positive for COVID are not becoming seriously ill (though many have relatively mild, cold-like symptoms). But we still need to work to manage the spread on campus and care for those who are sick.

We are making two major changes to our testing protocols: (1) We are moving back to individual PCR testing, just like we did last year and (2) We are increasing the testing frequency for all undergraduate students to twice per week. Here are the details:

Starting Monday September 6, WPI will move back to individual PCR testing for COVID, rather than pooled testing. This will increase our ability to identify and respond quickly to individuals who test positive. Here’s how this will work:

  • Start by blowing your nose before arriving at Harrington or at the tent outside (same as past few weeks)
  • Enter Harrington Lobby through the FRONT doors (rather than the side)
  • Swipe your ID and retrieve the individual label that prints – this has your name and a barcode on it
  • Bring your label and head upstairs (where you’ve been going all year) to take your test. Swabbing procedure is nearly identical to pooled testing and there will be lots of people to provide guidance.
  • Negative results will come to you via email. For individuals who tested last year, you may receive two emails with your results. You can continue just to check the “WPI COVID Testing” email you receive to see your results.
  • If you test positive, you will receive a call from someone in health services – please answer your phone. That person has important information for you on how to respond to your test result.
  • Close contacts of those who test positive will be contacted by Health Services with instructions. Anyone with symptoms should still go to Health Services on Hackfeld Road for testing.

In order to more quickly respond to positive cases and reduce spread, all undergraduates must now be tested twice per week. Because of the holiday we only have 4 testing days this week, so for this week only, all undergraduates please plan testing EITHER on Monday & Wednesday OR Tuesday & Thursday. Starting next week, a Sunday-Wednesday or Monday-Thursday testing schedule is ideal. Please make sure you always leave at least 48 hours between tests.

A couple of final comments:

  • First, please be patient as you go to get tested this week – there may be somewhat longer wait times over the next few days as we revert to individual PCR tests and as we perform more tests per week. Be kind to those working – remember our first-year students haven’t tested this way before so there will be a bit of a learning curve (but it’s easy and we’ll settle in quickly!).
  • Second, it is possible that we will move to more frequent testing for some other members of our community in the weeks to come. However, positivity in those communities (graduate students, faculty and staff) does not currently warrant a change to testing frequency and we cannot accommodate twice per week testing beyond undergraduate students this week. Again, please be patient as we transition back to individual PCR and we will be in touch with further information or changes as we move forward.

Thanks for all you are doing to help keep our community safe and together. This is a really important step, and I appreciate everyone’s cooperation.

Best regards,

Laurie