COVID-19 Testing at Middlebury

Middlebury has implemented a COVID-19 testing program in partnership with the Cambridge, Massachusetts–based Broad Institute. The testing program utilizes a COVID-19 viral test using the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) method, which is characterized by rapid detection, high sensitivity, and specificity.

Collection of the sample is self-administered and involves placing a swab within the lower part of the nasal passages while being instructed by a medical observer. This type of sampling (anterior nasal swab) is much more comfortable than a nasopharyngeal swab, which is how most samples were collected in the first few months of the pandemic. This video of the student arrival testing center can help you understand the process. You can also take a video tour inside the Broad Institute, which handles our testing.

Results are available approximately 36 hours after the test is administered:

  • If the test result is negative, individuals will receive an email from CareEvolve@LKNotification.com with the subject “Lab results available from your provider—Confirm Registration” with instructions for how to access your results. 
  • If the test result is positive, Health Services will contact the individual directly to notify them of the positive result and provide instructions. 
  • If the test result comes back as “insufficient sample,” Health Services will contact the individual to inform them they need to be retested. An insufficient sample is not an indicator that the test result might be positive; it simply means that another sample is needed.

Students will be required to give permission to Health Services to disclose the results of their tests and their compliance with the testing procedures—but no other health information—to public health authorities and relevant Middlebury offices. Except as otherwise permitted or required by law, Middlebury will not disclose a student’s COVID-19 test results to their families, emergency contacts, or anyone else except to facilitate contact tracing, treatment, infection control on campus, or for other public health purposes. Whenever possible, Middlebury will use test results without names or identifiers.

If a student tests positive for COVID-19, the contact tracing and isolation procedure noted on the Contact Tracing, Isolation, Self-Quarantine page will be activated. Students who test positive for COVID-19 are encouraged to share this information with their family and friends, emergency contacts, and anyone else who may be able to support them during their isolation period and subsequent recovery. Students are also free to authorize Middlebury to share such information on their behalf for public health and student support purposes.

Arrival Testing for Students

Upon arrival for the semester, each student will receive a COVID-19 viral test on day zero (arrival day) and again on day seven. After testing, students will move into their rooms and stay in room quarantine until the day-zero test results are available (expected in about 36 hours). Students living in approved off-campus housing will be expected to stay in their rooms as well, other than to get food at their residence or use the bathroom, until they receive negative test results. During the campus arrival phase, once students receive a negative result from the day-zero test, they may be able to leave their rooms and participate in activities allowed during campus quarantine. Students will be scheduled for a second COVID-19 viral test on day seven.

Any students with positive tests, including students living off campus who are enrolled to take classes on campus, will be relocated to specific isolation housing with ongoing medical, emotional, dining, and residential life team support. Contact tracing and subsequent testing of individuals identified as a contact will be managed by the Vermont Department of Health.

Symptom-Based Testing

When a student has symptoms that indicate a COVID-19 test should be performed, a viral test will be administered through Health Services. If a student receives a positive test result, Health Services will contact the student directly to notify them of the positive result and provide support and instructions for relocating to specific isolation housing.

If a faculty or staff member has symptoms that could be COVID-19, they should remain at home and contact their healthcare provider for guidance. If the healthcare provider recommends the employee get tested for COVID-19, the healthcare provider will order a test and provide information on where to receive the test. The employee must remain home until test results are received. If the healthcare provider does not recommend a test, the employee should follow their guidance as to when to safely return to work.

Exposure-Caused Testing

If a faculty member, staff member, or student is identified as a close contact of a positive case through contact tracing, the Vermont Department of Health will provide the requirements for quarantining and monitoring for symptoms.  Individuals identified as a close contact by the Vermont Department of Health contact tracing team should expect to quarantine for 14 days, or until a day-seven test is negative. This guidance is subject to change according to any CDC or health department procedure changes. Students will either quarantine in their rooms, or in designated flex housing. Employees must quarantine at home.

Targeted Dynamic Testing

COVID-19 viral tests will be administered to healthy students, faculty members, and staff members throughout the fall semester and possibly the entire 2020–21 academic year as part of Middlebury’s dynamic testing program.

In addition to testing all students twice upon arrival, the initial rounds of dynamic testing (starting the week of September 7) focused on employees who were working on campus in order to further reduce the risk of asymptomatic cases impacting the shared living community on campus. After we moved into Phase 2, all students began being tested (starting the week of September 21) as travel and interaction in the local community increased.

While this kind of ongoing, periodic testing of a population has not been widely studied, there are indications from some countries that it can be beneficial in detecting asymptomatic or presymptomatic cases, even in a state like Vermont where the prevalence and transmission rates are low. One drawback of this kind of testing—which exceeds current Vermont Department of Health (VDH) guidance—is that random testing of healthy people may produce occasional false positive results, and these individuals would then be excluded from dynamic testing for 90 days. According to CDC and VDH  guidance, individuals who have a positive PCR test in the last 90 days should not be retested until 90 days have elapsed. In the case of a false positive, the individual could then actually contract the virus during the 90-day exclusion period but not be identified by dynamic testing and could transmit the disease to others. As with many public health issues, it is important to strike a balance and understand the pros and cons of different strategies.

How much dynamic testing is conducted—including how often and how many employees and students are tested—will be informed by the health conditions of Addison County and Vermont, as well as campus health conditions. For example, if initial arrival testing shows low prevalence of the virus, similar to the results seen at other schools, including institutions in Vermont, dynamic testing may be scaled down. Of course, if arrival testing or other health conditions indicate higher prevalence, we have the ability to scale up additional testing.

During the fall semester dynamic testing will be scheduled by appointment. Individuals selected for testing will receive an email from COVIDTesting@middlebury.edu or will be notified by their supervisor.  Scheduling information and instructions for testing will be provided.

Targeted Dynamic Testing Categories

The frequency that an individual is tested will vary based on which targeted dynamic testing category they are in, as well as on local health conditions and the campus situation. For example, if positive cases are identified on campus, peripheral contacts will become a priority and will be tested more frequently than individuals less peripheral to the cases.

Peripheral Contacts

A peripheral contact is someone who has interacted with an individual who tests positive for COVID-19, but has not been identified by the Vermont Department of Health as a close contact through contact tracing. Middlebury will identify peripheral contacts from positive cases on campus and prioritize testing of peripheral contacts through the dynamic testing program.

Examples include classmates and faculty from an in-person class, hallmates/suitemates/housemates, teammates/coaches/athletic trainers, and/or coworkers of someone who tests positive for COVID-19.

Positional Contacts

A positional contact identifies in a testing category (1–4) based on exposure risk level to COVID-19 determined through hazard assessment. Employee risk level is based on position and/or job task and may change as an employee performs different tasks, moving from one exposure risk level to another.

Positional Contact 1:

  • Employees performing very high-risk or high-risk activities, such as performing or being present for aerosol-generating activities (examples: specimen collection, performing CPR) or individuals who require close contact with a COVID-19 patient.
  • Examples include Health Services staff in close contact with COVID-19 patients; Public Safety or Student Life staff if responding to an emergency in isolation housing where physical distancing is not possible, requiring close contact with a COVID-19 patient.

Positional Contact 2:

  • Students who live on campus or in-person learners who live off campus.
  • Employees performing medium-risk activities, such as working in public-facing locations with frequent contact with others, working closely with coworkers, or interacting frequently with students in close contact activities, including athletics, performing arts, or in some research environments.
  • Examples include staff in Health Services, Public Safety, or Sports Medicine; employees working at retail locations or service desks; staff and faculty working closely with coworkers or having frequent interaction with students (such as Dining Services or Facilities Services, or faculty performing close contact activities such as research activities).

Positional Contact 3:

  • Faculty and staff working on campus while maintaining physical distancing from others and with other control measures in place (face coverings, engineering/administrative controls).
  • Examples include employees whose work on campus does not require close contact or frequent contact with others—many faculty and staff fall into this category. Control measures have been implemented following Vermont’s mandatory health and safety requirements and College Restart guidelines to reduce exposure risk for in-person work.

Positional Contact 4:

  • Students, faculty, and staff who engage only in virtual learning, teaching, or working.
  • Examples include students studying remotely and not living on campus, faculty teaching remotely, and staff who are able to work remotely.  Faculty and staff who stop into their office only to pick up or drop off materials while wearing face coverings and maintaining physical distancing from others would be considered Positional Contact 4.

Middlebury’s COVID-19 testing program will be evaluated as additional information becomes available, taking into consideration the latest guidance from the Vermont Department of Health and the CDC Testing, Screening, and Outbreak Response for Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs) released on September 30, 2020.

Frequently Asked Questions: Testing

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Currently, Health Services is not recommending routine antibody testing. At this time, antibody testing is useful for research, epidemiological surveillance, and, in certain cases, for confirming a diagnosis for someone who is sick. Middlebury may decide to utilize antibody testing at some point during the semester as an additional source of information, to confirm the viral test data, and/or to evaluate whether asymptomatic spread is occurring.

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No. The dynamic testing program is not available for employees to finish their travel quarantine early. Faculty and staff are strongly advised to avoid extended personal travel other than to nonquarantine counties as defined by the Vermont Cross-State Travel guidelines in order to maximize the safety of our campus for our students living and learning here. To the extent that employees engage in personal travel, they must comply with Vermont’s then-current requirements for quarantine upon return to Vermont and, if not able to work remotely, must use CTO or other leave time. Visit this Vermont Department of Health page for the most up-to-date information on COVID-19 testing locations and availability.

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For information on testing procedures, please refer to this testing fact sheet about already having had a positive COVID-19 test.

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COVID-19 viral tests administered on campus will be provided at no charge. COVID-19 tests done by local health providers, including Porter Medical Center, when illness is suspected may be billed to insurance. The student health insurance plan covers diagnostic testing at 100 percent with no copay or other out-of-pocket costs at Health Services, so there will be no cost for this testing to students enrolled in this plan. Many other private insurance plans also cover SARS-CoV-2 testing and treatment at 100 percent as of the date of publication. If a student has an insurance plan other than the College’s health insurance through Gallagher Student Health, they should check before arriving on campus to determine if their insurance plan covers diagnostic COVID-19 testing.

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Please write to COVIDTesting@middlebury.edu with questions about Middlebury’s COVID-19 testing program.

Video: Tour of Broad Institute

Inside the Broad Institute

Ever wonder what happens with all the COVID-19 tests administered at Middlebury? Take a video tour of the Broad Institute in Massachusetts, which processes all of Middlebury’s testing.