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Students were welcomed back to the Lycoming College campus in late January with a series of required COVID-19 antigen tests and a week-long quarantine period to help safely kick off the Spring 2021 semester. The number of antigen tests administered totaled 3,069, with less than one percent of those showing positive for COVID-19. Classes were conducted remotely for five days, returning to in-person instruction when testing was complete.
The antigen testing component of the College’s Spring Repopulation Protocols, designed by an internal working group with the guidance of infectious disease experts from healthcare provider UPMC Susquehanna, was put into place to help identify members of the campus community who may unknowingly return to campus with a COVID-19 infection. Jeffrey Newman, Ph.D., professor of biology, was part of the team that developed the College’s antigen testing strategy and helped to manage test processing in the College’s microbiology lab. “Our Spring Repopulation Protocols involved a series of three antigen tests per student, spread over a six-day period to ensure that a test occurred during the incubation period and would be detectable.”
To make the testing process feasible, the College enlisted the help of highly capable pre-med and pre-graduate school Lycoming students, all of whom possess a high level of laboratory proficiency. These skilled scientists, coupled with the College’s microbiology lab facilities — outfitted with biosafety cabinets — presented the ideal setting in which to process tests in a matter of minutes, directly on campus. “We could not have completed such a large number of tests without the work of the students and several faculty supervisors,” said Newman.
“The whole testing program involved the work of many members of the campus community to plan, implement, and execute,” he added. “From building the swabbing booths to obtaining materials used, such as personal protective equipment, labels, tubes, and swabs, as well as preparing informational materials and videos, supervising self-swabbing, delivering test vials to the lab, managing samples and data, and result notification, it was truly an all-hands-on-deck endeavor.”
“Lycoming is deeply committed to a residential model of education because we know that bringing different kinds of people together opens the doors for students to learn about themselves and about the world. This remains our guiding principle as we continue to navigate higher education during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Chip Edmonds ’98, executive vice president of Lycoming. “Our tightly-knit campus community of students, faculty, and staff has come together, determined to make in-person learning a success, and it’s that spirit of positivity and dedication that makes it possible. I personally want to thank every member of the campus and the Williamsport community for their support.”
Lycoming College’s Spring Repopulation Protocols integrates every aspect of a safe residential learning experience, including stringent quarantine and isolation procedures, social distancing, mask-wearing, advising from infectious disease experts, a modified visitor policy, and mental health and counseling support.