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President Bateman's message to faculty and staff on COVID-19 testing

Dear faculty and staff colleagues,

I am writing today to share information about one element of our preparations for re-opening for classes on campus this fall: COVID-19 testing.

When the pandemic arose, the conventional wisdom was that “blanket” testing for COVID-19, done on a regular basis, was necessary because people can have (and spread) the disease without showing any signs of being ill. Thus, it was understood that we should regularly test across entire populations in order to know who was carrying the disease so they could be quarantined. One common estimate was that we needed 900,000 tests a day to effectively monitor the incidence of the disease.

Unfortunately, we have not reached that testing capacity in the United States and the position created to oversee the work of increasing testing capacity was closed down.

https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2020/06/01/867431135/white-house-coronavirus-testing-czar-to-stand-down

Currently, both the federal government and Virginia are discouraging colleges from making a “blanket” testing policy a part of their plans for re-opening campuses. Instead, we are being encouraged to have daily testing of people’s temperatures and only to refer people for COVID-19 testing who are already symptomatic for the disease.

We are working with at least two local institutions to identify a viable source of COVID-19 testing for this fall. This will be for testing of symptomatic individuals only, however, not a “blanket” test of the whole community. Because this represents such a sharp turn from the recent conventional wisdom, I feel that you need to know about it now.

The Task Force continues to weigh the sufficiency of “symptomatic” COVID-19 testing, and I have asked the Board of Trustees to enter into a discussion with me later this month about this question. If we are to have classes on campus this fall, I feel certain that our only testing option available will be symptomatic testing.

With best wishes,

Brad

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