Updates to compliance measures for spring semester

Students who fail to schedule a test for a particular week will have their Wi-Fi access to some websites restricted, according to executive director of Emory Student Health Services Sharon Rabinovitz. 

The penalty is part of the University’s various enforcement mechanisms to ensure on-campus students undergo weekly screening tests.

This restriction, which takes effect on Wednesdays if a test has not yet been scheduled for a given week, would include “entertainment sites” such as Netflix or Hulu, but not websites such as Canvas or YouTube that students may need for classes, according to Rabinovitz and Amir St. Clair, associate vice president and executive director of COVID-19 response and recovery.

“We’re not trying to impede your ability to log on to your Emory services and be able to access things you need for your classes or for registration,” St. Clair explained. “It’s not impacting your academic progress, it’s meant to really impact your conveniences, and make sure we want to get you back into compliance.”

The consequences for failing to schedule a test over multiple weeks have not been fully outlined, Rabinovitz said, but they may include “parent involvement, building access loss and then the ultimate, which we hope nobody will get to, is housing privileges lost.”

Rabinovitz noted that testing compliance last week was 98%.

Positive effluent test at Oxford campus

Oxford students received an email on Feb. 3 informing them that a COVID-19 test of wastewater, called an effluent test, was positive.

According to the email, Haygood Hall, the Jolley Residential Center and Fleming Hall were affected. Students who had spent time in those buildings and who had not received a COVID-19 test since Feb. 2 were asked to take another test within the next day.

“With the saliva testing weekly, and now effluent testing, it just reinforces, to make sure that we’re capturing everyone who might be in that residence hall,” Rabinovitz said.

Effluent testing, like weekly screening tests, helps identify asymptomatic cases so individuals can enter isolation.

“Because compliance has been so good this past week, it really did help the process to make sure that testing was done very much in real-time and consistently  in the assessment of those effluent test results,” Rabinovitz added.

Gathering meter shifts away from red zone

As planned, Emory relaxed its restrictions on student gatherings on Feb. 8, with the gathering risk meter further in the orange zone. Emory reopened recreation centers and will allow indoor gatherings of up to 10 students “with a faculty or staff member present,” according to a Feb. 8 student-wide email.

Saliva-based test turnaround time

Unlike the rapid antigen nasal swab that was previously used, the saliva-based test takes 24-48 hours to yield results. According to St. Clair, the average time for a test result to return is under 36 hours.

“We’re still doing part of our testing outside of Emory. Over the next few weeks, we anticipate bringing all of that testing in-house. That’s really important, because it’ll bring that turnaround time down even more,” St. Clair said.

St. Clair acknowledged that there have been some cases in which results took longer than 48 hours to process. He explained this could happen for several reasons.

“A good example is somebody might not have spit into that tube the right way, and therefore it delays our ability to get the right results,” St. Clair said. “Sometimes, since we use an external lab, if they have any delays on their side, that might impede our results.”

Rabinovitz and St. Clair stressed the importance of other mitigation strategies, such as avoiding gatherings, wearing masks, social distancing and hand washing.

“If you’re wearing your mask, if you’re physically distancing, if you’re washing your hands, then the turnaround time isn’t a significant variable because you’re doing what you should be doing. The turnaround time becomes a significant variable if you’re not doing what you should be doing,” St. Clair said.

Cases decline by 6 from last week

Emory reported 48 new cases this week, a slight dip from last week’s total of 54. This included 22 off-campus students, 11 on-campus students, 14 on-campus staff and one off-campus staff member.

The locations with multiple cases included Clairmont Undergraduate Residential Center with two cases, Longstreet-Means Hall with three cases and Woodruff Residential Center with four cases.