As Northeastern moves ahead to reopen in the fall, testing faculty and staff who return to work will play an integral role in promoting the safety of the Boston campus and its surrounding communities.
The university will be requiring all people studying, living, and working on campus to be tested for the coronavirus. Faculty and staff will be tested every seven days, or whenever they are on campus if their visits are less frequent than one day a week. Students will be tested the day they arrive, then on day three, followed by day five—and will be able to attend classes in person after receiving negative results on all three tests.
“Northeastern has been looking to the fall semester from very early on, and we have done exhaustive analysis using all the resources that we have,” says David Luzzi, senior vice provost for research and head of the university’s testing operation. “We have put in place a multi-component strategy to keep the campus safe, and we strongly feel that we have the campus ready for a successful full semester.”
Before faculty members go back to teaching in person, they will need to receive a negative test result within a week of their return—a test they can obtain on the Boston campus or elsewhere. Staff members and employees will also need to be tested on campus the day of their return.
“It’s really important that everyone follows the rules, whether it’s wearing a mask or getting tested,” says Sehyo Yune, who directs the COVID-19 wellness team at Northeastern. “This is different from clinical medicine, because we are treating the entire community as our case, and we want to keep the entire community healthy.”
All members of the Northeastern community who do not show COVID-19 symptoms will be able to begin testing on Monday, Aug. 17 at the Cabot Physical Education Center on the Boston campus. People with symptoms of sickness will be tested at a different testing facility on campus.
Faculty, staff, and contract workers returning from a state with high risk of infection, as described by the Massachusetts travel regulations, will be allowed to get tested at Northeastern, but will need to stay home until they receive a negative result.
Students returning to the Boston campus will be required to go through three separate tests upon arrival, and then be tested regularly once every five days. Students who are already living on campus will also be able to schedule the first of their initial three tests for the week of Aug. 17.
All members of the Northeastern community will be able to schedule a test, even if they aren’t required to receive testing on a regular basis.
The COVID-19 testing center at Northeastern will run from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays, and from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends. Additional testing will be conducted twice a week between 6 and 7 a.m. for anyone working night shifts, such as security personnel.
Everyone on the Boston campus will be required to use a web-based application to check their health before going on campus, as well as before getting a test. That Daily Wellness Check will prompt users to answer specific questions to help determine whether they are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, or been in close contact with someone who has.
If, after using the wellness check, a member of the faculty, staff, or a contract worker receives a message indicating they might have one of the several symptoms of COVID-19, they will be directed to connect with their own healthcare provider. The wellness check will prompt students who experience symptoms to connect with a telehealth provider.
“If you have no COVID-19 symptoms, you get a green screen that welcomes you to the Boston campus,” says Madeleine Estabrook, senior vice chancellor of student affairs, who is leading the university’s extensive contact-tracing program.
Scheduling your test will be easy
The university has also created an online COVID-19 Test Scheduler to make it easy for everyone at Northeastern to schedule the specific date and time of their test in advance.
Beginning Saturday, Aug. 15, everyone will be able to use the scheduler when they need to take a test. As the university moves ahead with reopening at the end of August, everyone will receive regular email reminders to sign up for their required recurring tests. And everyone will have the ability to use the scheduler to indicate their presence on campus—whether they are on campus regularly or not.
Using that scheduler will be imperative, as the testing center will not be able to accept walk-ins without a scheduled appointment.
The scheduling system will become available on Saturday, Aug. 15, and details about how to access it will be sent directly to every member of the Northeastern community over that weekend. The scheduling system will also be accessible by way of links on several university websites, as well as the student hub.
What exactly you can expect at the Cabot testing center
First, you will need to confirm you are a member of the Northeastern community by using your Husky Card and your 9-digit NU ID, which you can access through the Daily Wellness Check. To enter the facility, you will also need to use that Checker to verify that you have completed the daily symptom check that same day.
“The Daily Wellness Check also has the ability to show you the date stamp of when you completed that symptom check,” Estabrook says. “So, if you are getting tested today, you can’t show yesterday’s symptom checker.”
Once inside Cabot, members of the center’s staff will help you proceed to a designated area where a clinical administrator will instruct and supervise groups of three people to swab their own nostril using the anterior nasal swab method. This way of collecting samples is less intrusive than the nasopharyngeal swab method, which involves inserting an elongated swab deep enough to reach the upper part of the throat.
Having clinical administrators instruct groups of three people at a time to swab their own nostrils reduces the risk of infection for healthcare providers, and will also result in faster sampling.
“Then there will be a staff member and three people standing in front, so that the staff member will be observing the three people doing the swabbing themselves,” Estabrook says.
Everyone in the center will be required to wear their masks, except during the self-administered swabbing. And everyone will need to follow markings to keep a distance of six feet from one another.
You can expect the entire process to take about less than 10 minutes. After that, you will receive your test results via email or a phone call in about 24 hours.
Members of the Northeastern community who are symptomatic will need to connect with a healthcare professional before coming to campus. If they need to get tested, they will proceed to a different, smaller testing facility that is part of the Marino Recreation Center and which will serve as a contained space with four clinical administrators who will administer the tests.
All tests will undergo analysis at Northeastern’s Innovation Campus, where the university’s newly-built Life Sciences Testing Center recently secured state and federal certifications to process coronavirus samples using the gold standard for viral testing.
The entire testing operation, which is designed to collect and process up to 5,000 samples a day, will be up to full capacity when students start to move to campus on Aug. 29.
The university will ask anyone who tests positive to remain isolated for at least 10 days, according to the protocols of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Faculty, staff, and contract workers, as well as students living off campus, will need to isolate at home. Students living on campus will be isolated in special on-campus wellness housing.