The value of aggressive coronavirus testing has been one of the major lessons of the fall. “We changed our testing protocols substantially over the semester,” said Michael Fitts, Tulane’s president. “At one point, we moved it up to three times a week, and we found that was very effective, and we will continue that in the spring.”
Tulane has access to two testing machines through its medical school, which can conduct 3,000 tests a day and have results back in 12 hours. “I will say our positivity rate was much lower than New Orleans,” Mr. Fitts said of the university, which calls the city home.
Syracuse learned its lesson after Halloween, when the lab it was using produced results too slowly and transmission got out of hand, Mr. Haynie said. Now the university has its own testing lab, within the biology department. For the spring, it plans to double its capacity to about 300,000 tests between January and May.
“We realized we had to have full control and autonomy,” Mr. Haynie said.
Similarly Cornell University set up a lab in its veterinary school, where it can perform 35,000 to 40,000 tests a week and get results back in as little as eight hours. U.C. San Diego is processing its own tests, too.
U.C. San Diego is doing not only standard swab testing, but also testing wastewater, expanding contact tracing with a phone app and moving instruction to outdoor classrooms. As of Saturday, the school had recorded only about 70 cases since March among the more than 9,000 students living on campus, according to the school dashboard.
“It’s like a Swiss cheese model,” said Pradeep Khosla, U.C. San Diego’s chancellor and an engineer who specializes in system building. “Every layer has its holes, but put together, it’s a solid block.”