Bowdoin College COVID-19 Testing
In an effort to keep Bowdoin’s community as safe and healthy as possible, and to promote the ability to continue some in-person operations during the 2020–2021 academic year, the College is making every effort to minimize person-to-person transmission of COVID-19 and to protect those most vulnerable to the disease.
This means adhering to national, state, and local health guidelines and requirements and to those measures Bowdoin College deems appropriate for its campus. Testing and robust contact tracing are key to Bowdoin’s ability to effectively hold the fall semester we have planned.
Testing students before they arrive on campus
Bowdoin is partnering with LetsGetChecked to administer COVID-19 tests to students planning to study on campus—before their arrival in Brunswick. If a student tests positive, that student will not be coming to campus until cleared by their primary care provider.
Testing during the fall semester
Students who will be living on campus this semester are scheduled to arrive August 29, 2020. Those students will be tested immediately upon their arrival, three times a week during their first two weeks on campus, and twice weekly after that. Most Bowdoin employees are working remotely, but faculty and staff who will be on campus and who will interact directly with students will also be tested twice a week beginning on August 24. Others with only an occasional presence on campus will be tested once a week.
Bowdoin is partnering with the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Broad Institute, a world-class laboratory, to provide and process tests for students, faculty, and staff who are on campus. Broad is able to provide results within twenty-four hours; results are provided to the student or employee, the College, the ordering physician, and the State of Maine.
Why frequent testing is important
Testing multiple times per week for those present within a residential community is crucial not only in identifying the virus but also in preventing its spread. The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test the College will be using is said to be the gold standard in COVID-19 testing. PCR identifies viral or bacterial particles by detecting the DNA or RNA of the pathogen in minute quantities. Using the PCR test twice a week is said to be optimum to finding the presence of the novel coronavirus before a person shows symptoms and becomes a shedder of the virus. An early positive result allows the College to isolate the student before they become infectious. This model of twice-a-week testing is critical to preventing an outbreak.
If a student tests positive
A positive result will result in a student being relocated to a residence hall that will be set up specifically to isolate infected students, ideally before they become infectious to others. That student would remain in isolation with support from student affairs staff and will be monitored by Bowdoin Health Services until cleared using standards put forth by the Maine Center for Disease Control. Upon receiving a positive test, a student in residence, or faculty/staff member, will be contacted by a member of the Bowdoin community who is a trained contact tracer. The contact tracing system will help identify any close contacts (defined by the Centers for Disease Control as one having been within six feet of a known positive case for more than fifteen minutes), who will then quarantine and receive follow-up testing to help spread infection.
How testing will be done
Testing will be facilitated in the centrally located, 10,000 square-foot, ADA-accessible Morrell Gymnasium, which is equipped with two air-handling units capable of bringing in 100 percent fresh outside air and a generator to ensure continued operations through power outages. Bowdoin worked with an architecture firm specializing in health care facility design to formulate a safe and efficient way for students, faculty, and staff to move through testing stations. It’s estimated the process will take three minutes from entry to exit, allowing seventy-two tests to be conducted per hour. Tests will be administered Monday through Friday, 7:00 a.m.– 4:00 p.m. While the capacity of Morrell Gymnasium is 2,000 people, it is estimated that only thirty (30) people will be in the space at one time when testing is underway.
A commitment to health and safety
At $25 per test, and with an estimated 35,000 tests anticipated for the fall semester, Bowdoin is making a significant financial contribution in its efforts to protect the health and safety of its students, faculty, and staff—and by extension, the local community—as it makes every effort to provide an excellent Bowdoin education.