By Kyle Beatty ‘23, Staff Writer
The College’s plan for the Fall return to campus presumes that COVID tests will be processed within 48 hours, a turnaround time that the White House’s testing czar recently called “not a possible benchmark we can achieve today.”
This year, students won’t start move-in day by greeting their friends and unpacking their bags. Each student will arrive on one of five move-in days, Monday, August 10th to Friday, August 14th, and immediately report to Bream Gym to receive a throat-swab test. After reporting to testing and moving in their belongings, students are to stay sequestered in their rooms with no visitors other than their roommates until their test results have been processed. Students who test positive are quarantined either on campus or at home, while students who test negative are cleared to interact with other students while wearing masks and practicing physical distancing.
The College has acquired sufficient supplies to test all incoming students, and writes that it “hope[s] that test results will be available within 48 hours”. Although the country has experienced widespread testing delays, the College has been assured that its testing “is not in competition with testing done by health care organizations”. The tests will be processed at CLC, a private nonprofit lab in Juniata, PA.
Gettysburg is one of many colleges that have made bold plans to reopen this fall. The tone of the school’s updates has been consistent: if (and this may be bigger if than we care to admit) students consistently wear masks, physically distance, and adhere to the school’s health directives, the campus should remain very nearly COVID-free.
While such plans have been criticized as insufficient to prevent outbreaks, the College hopes that its rigorous testing will filter out any positive cases from the population. But promising such a fast turnaround time may set students up for disappointment and disillusion with the entire program of countermeasures.
For the College’s plan of safety precautions and contact tracing to be effective, the preliminary testing round must be able to guarantee a residential population with a very low rate of infection. As such, this first round of comprehensive testing represents an important hurdle in the reopening process and one that is largely outside of the College’s control.