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Colby College will administer roughly 85,000 COVID-19 tests in its first semester as part of its plans to reopen on Aug. 26.
The testing plan is part of changes to campus life that could cost the small Waterville-based liberal arts school as much as $10 million this year, according to a letter released on Tuesday by college President David A. Greene.
“We will have to implement strict safety protocols that will make the Colby experience different in some ways than we normally expect. But I am also persuaded that it can be an outstanding year if we all understand the risks and take appropriate steps in our everyday interactions to mitigate them,” Greene said. “This will truly be a time when we will all need to focus on ensuring that our personal behavior is entirely aligned with the common good.”
Colby joins the University of Maine System as a school planning extensive COVID-19 testing of its students. Bates College and Bowdoin University have also rolled out plans that seek to maintain their academic environments in the era of coronavirus that include social distancing and face masks.
The 85,000 tests will start with students being tested prior to their arrival with test kits the school will provide. All school community members — including faculty and staff — will be tested three times during the opening weeks of the semester. Afterward, everyone will be tested twice a week, a rate that Greene described as being in line with scientific models shown to limit the spread of the virus with detection of infections in individuals before they become contagious.
Results will be available within 24 hours, Greene wrote.
Since the onset of the pandemic, the state of Maine has administered 102,039 total coronavirus tests, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
The plan also entails closing campus to visits from students’ family and friends, canceling family homecoming weekend, employing remote instruction and requiring all on-campus students to stay on the Waterville campus through October break.
The school will largely discontinue professional travel for faculty and staff and require all Colby community members to inform the school of their out-of-state travel “with the understanding that a return to campus might require a quarantine period,” Greene wrote.
In addition, Colby’s plan includes:
― Opening the college’s newly constructed Lockwood Hotel on Main Street as a student residence for this year only.
― Requiring all campus community members to complete a daily self-assessment through a smartphone application, with members showing signs of COVID-19 required to quarantine pending test results. Faculty and staff showing signs will remain at home until negative test results are confirmed.
― The creation of a “comprehensive contact tracing operation” to minimize outbreaks.
― The enforced wearing of face masks “in most spaces, including classrooms and campus buildings” and the reassignment of classrooms and class times to allow for social distancing. Outdoor spaces will be used during warmer months.
― A redesigned dining program that allows for food pickup, reduced seating and the elimination of most self-serve options.
School will start two weeks earlier than originally scheduled, on Aug. 26. On-campus instruction will end Nov. 24, and finals will be completed remotely, according to the plan.