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Duke to begin pool testing of undergraduates next week

Undergraduates will participate in COVID-19 pool testing starting next week, with the process then expanded to include other community members, Duke announced Thursday.

Beginning the week of Aug. 17—the first week of classes—undergraduate students living on campus will be selected to participate in the self-administered testing, according to a Thursday email to undergraduates from John Vaughn, director of student health services; Mary Pat McMahon, vice provost and vice president for student affairs; and Gary Bennett; vice provost for undergraduate education. 

“If you are selected for pool testing, you’ll receive an email and text message alerting you to your day,” the email states. “Please be sure to attend carefully to these texts and plan accordingly.”

Participants will insert a cotton swab into each nostril and move it in a circle against the inside of the nose three times, according to the email. Students need to bring DukeCards or a mobile phone with the SymMon app, used for daily symptom monitoring, and the process will take about five minutes. 

There will be testing sites in multiple locations on East and West Campus, and site coordinators at each location will ensure tests are transported to a nearby lab.

Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations, told The Chronicle last month that Duke’s pool testing would involve grouping five to 10 samples into a single test.

“If a particular pool tests positive then the samples are referred for further testing to isolate the positive individual, who would then be contacted by a medical professional for further action (testing, isolation, etc.),” Schoenfeld wrote in a message at the time. 

Any positive results will be communicated to students participating in pool testing within 48 hours, according to the Thursday email to undergraduates. 

The process will expand in following weeks to include other students, then “faculty and staff who regularly interact with students on campus,” according to the email.

“This testing process will be conducted throughout the fall semester. Duke hopes to make this as quick and convenient as possible for all participants, and it is critical that you participate to ensure we can maintain on-campus activities during the pandemic,” the email states. 

Contact tracers will get in touch with students who test positive to determine whether others who’ve been in contact with them need to be referred for quarantine and testing, according to Duke’s July 26 reopening FAQ.

Duke has set up quarantine and isolation space in two East Campus dorms, as well as the Lodge at Duke Health hotel, for students living in Duke housing. Those who live off campus have to quarantine or isolate at home if necessary.

All students must also be tested upon returning to campus. The University announced Wednesday that there had been four positive coronavirus tests among returning students, out of 3,116 tests conducted so far, in addition to a 26th positive test among student-athletes. 

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