After two weeks of in-person campus operations and over 10,000 COVID-19 tests, Georgetown University will begin testing random pools of campus students, faculty and staff for the coronavirus.
Beginning in early September, a random pool of vaccinated campus community members will be selected weekly for asymptomatic COVID-19 testing, according to an Aug. 27 email from Dr. Ranit Mishori, Georgetown’s chief public health officer. Selected individuals will be notified on Mondays and are asked to complete a test by Thursday of the same week.
The new protocols adjust the university’s initial COVID-19 testing guidelines, which required all individuals to receive a test upon moving onto campus, regardless of vaccination status. Individuals who are not fully vaccinated must be tested twice per week as set out in the original guidelines, according to the email.
The university will continue to monitor the public health of the campus community and will adjust guidelines if needed, according to a university spokesperson.
The decision to change testing protocols comes amid concern about future COVID-19 cases, according to the email. The university saw a slight uptick in the number of positive tests in the past weeks, with 58 individuals testing positive for a positivity rate of 0.55% in the week of Aug. 22. During the week of Aug. 15, 34 campus community members tested positive for a positivity rate of 0.53%.
Individuals who test positive for COVID-19 will be contacted by Georgetown’s COVID-19 Care Navigator team, a team of contact tracers who contact and provide guidance for both positive individuals and those who come into close contact with them, according to a university spokesperson.
“The Care Navigator team works as quickly as possible to determine who was in close contact with this person and then notifies and provides guidance to those individuals, typically within hours of learning about the positive case,” the spokesperson wrote in an email to The Hoya.
In addition to testing protocols, the new guidelines will also require all students, regardless of vaccination status, to fill out a daily COVID-19 symptom checklist through the GU360 app effective immediately, according to the email. Many students report they have not filled out the checklist but can still access main campus buildings using their GoCard, a student ID and access card.
According to District of Columbia Ward 2 Councilmember Brooke Pinto (LAW ’17), Georgetown’s new testing protocols display the university’s commitment to the greater Washington, D.C. community.
“I support Georgetown’s decision to supply randomized testing to students as one way to help reduce further spread of the virus, and it can be especially helpful in locating and isolating asymptomatic and positive cases,” Pinto wrote in an email to The Hoya. “As we continue to come together as a community to beat this virus and make a full recovery from the pandemic, I am especially grateful to the Georgetown University community and thank them for their partnership in this effort.”
Testing students as they return to an in-person learning environment is crucial in controlling the spread of COVID-19, according to Pinto.
“As Georgetown University welcomed back thousands of students and staff to an in-person learning environment, it is vitally important to ensure safe protocols are followed to keep the entire community safe and limit the spread of COVID-19. Testing is a critical part of preventing and slowing the spread of COVID-19 particularly in academic settings,” Pinto wrote.
While an increase in mandated testing of the campus community is positive, these new protocols do not go far enough, according to Lauren Gaetano (COL ’23), who volunteered in a hospital amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Jan. to May 2021.
“It does feel like they’re trying, but as someone who has worked in the pandemic, volunteering in hospitals and in vaccination and testing clinics, I would like to see maybe a little bit more robust testing, especially given that not all the Georgetown population is vaccinated,” Gaetano said in a phone interview with The Hoya.
Although she currently feels safe on campus, Gaetano said that may change if cases continue to rise.
“I have been fully vaccinated, and I wear my mask all the time, even outside, but obviously that might change if we start to see a rise in cases, and I would feel more comfortable if the university was doing more testing,” Gaetano said.