COVID-19 and Testing Data: Here’s How You Can Safely Return Students to Campus This Fall

Here’s How You Can Safely Return Students to Campus This FallIt has been an August rite of passage for generations: an overloaded car carrying a bright-eyed 18-year-old (along with their worldly possessions) arrives on campus a week before the semester kicks off. This is college moving day, which historically has meant Dad needs to make an inhuman number of trips up and down residence hall staircases.

With summer break coming to an end and the start of classes fast approaching, campus life will be different this year. At the very least, it is likely to be unsettled, and disconcerting. Our world, after all, has been turned upside this year – and that feeling is amplified among our youth.

Whatever fears and concerns those dewy-eyed future scholars may have of the unknown (socially, educationally and epidemiologically), the anxiety is even higher among parents, university administrators and staff. And so are the stakes.

One of the changes everyone will notice this year – beyond the masks and the fact that everyone will be six feet away – is COVID-19 testing.

For universities and colleges, providing adequate testing will be the lynchpin for safe on-campus learning. It’s the primary means of assuring people they won’t infect others, and that those around them are healthy & safe, as well.

Campus COVID-19 Challenges
For college administrators, pulling together a unified response plan to the epidemic is challenging. Testing students, faculty and staff – a must in order to safely return to classrooms – raises several logistical questions which must be addressed, including:

  1. How do you ensure compliance, including HIPAA and other privacy concerns, while providing appropriate staff members with access to necessary information?
  2. What system or platform will you use to track the tests and data, and can it be integrated with existing information management systems?
  3. The start of classes is right around the corner – how do you quickly implement & validate such a system to ensure it is ready to go?
  4. How do you do all of this – with budgets already stretched thin – in a cost-effective manner?

These are the questions campus staff should be asking, and the answers will play a role in determining whether it’s possible to safely reopen and bring students back to campus or maintain a virtual learning environment.

In some cases, presidents of post-secondary institutions have decided to keep campuses closed this Fall. Others are taking a wait-and-see approach, though time is short – and the next few weeks may not offer any appreciably different information upon which they can base a decision.

A growing number of schools are developing multiple plans. These usually involve different operating models, depending on current circumstances:

  • testing on a fully reopened campus
  • maintaining a partially-reopened campus (or staggering attendance)
  • distance learning/ eLearning.

Managing the Return to Campus

Managing the Return to Campus
In a post earlier this month, we shared how the LabVantage COVID-19 LIMS is being deployed by global businesses as a coronavirus testing management platform to ensure employees can safely return to the workplace.

Many of the same principles businesses face apply to higher education, and the system is designed to just as easily manage student and faculty testing.

We recently implemented the same platform for one of the major national university systems with an undergrad enrollment exceeding 35,000.  Among their selection criteria:

  1. Testing needed to be accessible and HIPAA compliant, offering strong privacy protection and tightly controlled user access. Ensuring data integrity is a must.
  2. Test workflows had to be easy to manage and use, as well as compliant with CDC and FDA guidance on testing protocols.
  3. The platform had to handle the full range of viral tests tests in use today, with the flexibility to easily add additional workflows as the science of SAR-CoV-2 evolved.
  4. It was essential that the testing platform be scalable and offer rapid ‘go-live’ deployment.
  5. The testing platform install had to be flexible, as they wanted different options: local deployment, cloud-hosting and SaaS.

Back-to-School with LabVantage COVID-19 LIMS
Built on our industry-leading laboratory informatics management system (LIMS), the LabVantage COVID-19 LIMS is specifically designed to manage testing for the virus and the presence of antibodies. The objective was to deliver an accurate, easy-to-use, reliable testing & tracking methodology that meets the multiple demands of colleges and universities, including privacy, accountability, availability, and affordability. We built the platform to be a powerful, flexible, and easy-to-use solution that is fast to implement, and is available as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), via the cloud, or on-premise.

Learn how you can bring diagnostic testing and related information management onsite to ensure the health and safety of students and staff. Quickly implement LabVantage COVID-19 to help your institution build student, faculty and employee trust and ease fears about returning to campus.