Colleges and universities across the country have adopted various testing protocols. Furman is following the guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, the American College Health Association, Prisma Health, and Furman epidemiologists.
Watch the Furman CLP: Vaccination Forum.
Some students and employees are starting to report that they have received the COVID-19 vaccine and have questions about testing and quarantine. While none of the currently approved vaccines is 100% effective for all recipients at preventing the possibility of infection, the likelihood of person-to-person transmission significantly decreases as the proportion of the vaccinated population increases.
Consistent with recently updated interim guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Furman requires that all students, faculty and staff who have completed the full COVID-19 vaccine protocol continue to physically distance, wear a mask, and maintain small social circles (pods) whenever possible.
Fully vaccinated persons who remain asymptomatic are not required to participate in mandatory surveillance monitoring if they meet ALL of the following criteria, which must be documented with the Earle Student Health Center (students) or Human Resources (employees):
In addition, fully vaccinated individuals who experience a close contact exposure to someone suspected or confirmed to have an active COVID-19 infection are not required to quarantine if exposed to an individual determined to be a close contact via contact tracing. All others are required to follow Furman’s standard quarantine protocol. Our teams will continue to review and adjust our policies based on guidance from the CDC, SC DHEC and Prisma Health.
UPDATE from DHEC: All South Carolinians 16 and older are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine, beginning March 31, 2021. Faculty, staff and student employees may want to consider using https://vaxlocator.dhec.sc.gov as a resource for scheduling an appointment for the vaccine.
Students, faculty and staff who have received the complete dose of the COVID vaccination may voluntarily share their vaccination record with the Earle Student Health Center (students) and Human Resources (faculty and staff).
Sharing your record will help Furman understand how many of our community members are vaccinated. We are strongly encouraging everyone to be vaccinated because it will greatly impact in a positive way our ability to have in-person activities at increased capacities.
For employees, this information will not be shared or stored as part of personnel records, and no personnel actions will be taken based on whether employees have received the vaccine or not. Please submit only your vaccination record and do not include any medical information along with it.
No decision has been made yet about whether Furman will require students and/or employees to be vaccinated. A committee is exploring this issue currently.
Ensuring that health and safety remain our top priority includes responding to continuing changes in the pandemic and taking full advantage of the evolution of scientific guidance and tools to best mitigate risk. Since Summer 2020, PCR-based testing has become readily available in most localities nationwide, and in many locations offered free of charge by public health agencies with results typically available within 72 hours. This represents a significant improvement from the 7-10 day wait periods experienced in late summer 2020, and makes it viable for all students to test within 5 days of their return to campus, thus providing a result that meaningfully contributes to campus health and safety. For students where testing is not possible, Furman can direct them to a local lab in Greenville, SC that offers drive-through PCR testing with a turnaround time of typically 24-36 hours.
With the continued development and distribution of rapid antigen and other testing modalities, Furman will continue to monitor access, accuracy and federal, state and local guidance.
Upon return to campus in January, Furman will require all residential students to obtain a negative nucleic amplification-based molecular diagnostic test for SARS-CoV-2 (RT-PCR or NAAT) in order to access campus. The NAAT test is becoming more readily available across the country and typically provides same day results. Either test should be obtained prior to returning to campus. Rapid antigen test results will not be accepted.
Most medical insurance plans will cover the cost of the test, and many state health departments or other agencies, provide free testing opportunities. Furman will cover the difference using the Student Sickness Benefits plan. You will just need to submit a claim for reimbursement.
Students approved to live in campus housing over the winter break must get tested between January 10-15 and provide the test results to the Earle Student Health Center at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Approved early arrivals returning between January 4-14, must provide a documented negative test to the Earle Student Health Center prior to their arrival to campus. The SARS-CoV-2 PCR or NAAT test must be administered no earlier than five days prior to returning and the negative test result should be sent to email@example.com and their early arrival coordinator (i.e. athletic trainer, supervisor, etc.).
Students returning to campus on January 15-18, must provide a documented negative test to the Earle Student Health Center prior to their arrival to campus. The SARS-CoV-2 PCR or NAAT test must be administered between January 10-15 and the negative test result should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Since commuters are not permitted on campus the first week of the term, they no longer need to submit a negative test result prior to arrival, but will be tested during the first week of the semester along with the residential students.
Students living in The Vinings over the winter break must get tested between January 10-15 and provide the test results to the Earle Student Health Center at email@example.com. Students returning to The Vinings on January 15-18, must provide a documented negative test to the Earle Student Health Center prior to their arrival to campus. The SARS-CoV-2 PCR or NAAT test must be administered between January 10-15 and the negative test result should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Students who choose to delay their return to campus should also delay their pre-arrival COVID test. Students arriving later in the semester must provide a documented negative test to the Earle Student Health Center within 5 days of their return to campus.
Students who have tested positive for COVID-19 using a SARS-Cov-2 PCR test fewer than 90 days prior to their return date, and who are not currently in isolation, may submit those results to the Earle Student Health Center in lieu of mandatory testing.
If a student tests positive prior to coming to campus, they must stay home and contact the Earle Student Health Center. Further guidance on returning to campus will be provided by the ESHC.
Furman will accept results from mail-in COVID testing programs that are collected within the designated five-day window. These tests must be PCR tests and saliva-based. Furman will not accept the self-administered nasal swab samples or rapid antigen tests. Some mail-in testing programs are listed below:
Furman’s Student Sickness Benefits plan will not be able to cover the mail-in testing program.
SC DHEC offers free testing in South Carolina. Find the nearest location. They are providing results within 3-4 days.
Students who are symptomatic or who are concerned about being a close contact to an individual who is either symptomatic or has tested positive for COVID-19, should contact the Earle Student Health Center instead of seeking assistance in the external community, for the following reasons…
Students who do get tested in the external community and the result is positive for COVID-19, should isolate immediately, submit the LiveSafe Health Survey, and await instructions from the ESHC staff.
Beginning in September, with improvements in testing availability, sampling modalities (e.g., saliva or nasal swab) and turnaround time (24-36 hours), the university added a randomized surveillance monitoring protocol. Each week, 20% of students participating in in-person instruction are tested at no cost using a PCR-based assay (saliva or nasal swab) in a convenient walk-up or drive-through on-campus location.
The combination of surveillance monitoring, daily screening, symptomatic testing, contact tracing and adherence to the Paladin Promise were highly successful in preventing viral spread in the Fall semester. This layered approach to public health will be even more essential to our success in the spring, with enhanced campus density over the entire term and increased time spent indoors where aerosol particles are not as readily dispersed.
We are currently conducting COVID-19 testing at 25% of the student body each week. A statistical software program generates a list of students selected for testing each week using a random sampling process commonly employed in epidemiology. Testing a randomly selected portion of the student body provides an estimate of campus COVID-19 disease activity representative of the larger student body population. Random sampling means that students have an equal probability of being selected on any given testing week, just as heads or tails are equally likely when flipping a coin. In other words, it is possible to be selected multiple weeks in a row.
In addition to the statistical representativeness of a randomly drawn sample, there are other benefits. For example, if we were to take an approach that assured that each student got tested once a month, with A-F last names getting tested in week 1, G-L in week 2, M-R in week 3, and S-Z in week 4. That might seem “fairer,” but in addition to that not being random, and thus from a statistically methodological standpoint not generalizable to the larger population, it might encourage those students further along in the alphabet to relax their measures until closer to their time. Or, for those early alphabet students to be vigilant until their negative test, then relax their disease preventing behaviors until closer to their “turn” again. This approach can have some negative unintended consequences. There is no perfect method, but Furman is using an evidence-based, systematic method, which is what public health requires.
Faculty and staff are not routinely tested through on-campus surveillance monitoring because they are not in a residential setting with students (i.e., living on campus, eating in the dining areas, etc.), do not impact isolation and quarantine space, and the protocols in place for any student spaces for interaction (e.g., classrooms, counseling areas, etc.) are designed to maintain 6-foot distancing and masking at all times, thereby eliminating close contacts. To date, there have been no cases where an employee/student exposure has been linked to viral transmission.
Faculty and staff are, however, expected to complete a mandatory daily health screening before coming onto campus, report any COVID-19 symptoms and results of associated tests, report on-campus close contact exposures if positive and exposures to any COVID-positive close contacts, and complete full isolation and quarantine protocols until approved to return to work. In addition, many of our faculty and staff participate in voluntary testing off site.
As an added measure of safety, Furman required our faculty, staff and student-facing contract employees – just like students – to participate in mandatory testing for two consecutive weeks at the beginning of the spring semester. The positivity rate measured during this testing was significantly lower than for students, e.g., 0.55% during week 2 vs. 1.8% for students, and 1 symptomatic employee (non student-facing) vs. 8 symptomatic students. Due to the results of testing and the additional protective measures already in place as described above, the Public Health and Safety Advisory Group has not recommended additional mandatory testing at this time. As Furman continues to monitor campus and community trends and any evidence of increased disease incidence or transmission among faculty and staff, we will respond with additional testing as necessary.
As a Division I program, Furman Athletics must adhere to NCAA policies, including the NCAA Core Principles of Resocialization of Collegiate Sport regarding COVID-19 policies and procedures, which serves as a guide to Furman Athletics’ phased approach to returning. These policies include enhanced COVID-19 testing protocols for student-athletes and athletic staff. Student-athletes and select staff are tested at differing intervals as guided by NCAA/SoCon; sports that are actively “in season” are tested more regularly. For example, all members of the men’s and women’s basketball teams and their staff are currently tested 3X per week. In addition, student-athletes are included in the weekly surveillance monitoring testing conducted by Furman, and thus are ultimately evaluated at a much higher rate than the campus population as a whole.
Furman uses a local medical provider using FDA-certified nasal and saliva PCR testing in our determinations. PCR is generally recognized as the most sensitive, specific, and accurate format for COVID-19 testing, recommended by CDC, SC DHEC and many other public health entities as the preferred test for asymptomatic testing in particular. Indeed, one of the reasons for the high accuracy associated with PCR testing is that it relies on directly multiplying and measuring SARS-CoV-2 viral DNA present in the sample, rather than protein fragments that may be associated with the virus (e.g. “rapid antigen” testing). Thus, true “false positives” are extraordinarily rare with PCR testing versus other testing modalities.
Because viral loads vary over the course of the disease, it is quite possible to test positive on one day, and as viral load begins to diminish, obtain a follow up test where the test results may be labeled as “SARS-CoV-2 not detected”, which is even more likely using the less sensitive rapid testing methods. This does not, however, imply the initial test was in error, or result in a positive case being released from isolation. The greater the time that passes from the initial sampling resulting in a positive test until the second test is sampled, the greater the chance the two tests may disagree. Different formats of PCR instrumentation, types of sampling methods, and differences in provider laboratories all contribute to the sensitivity for the test, including how many replication cycles are used to assign a positive case. For example, Furman’s provider automatically runs a duplicate test taken from the original sample for every positive test reported before the data are released to the student.
Invalidating a positive test is highly unusual and requires (1) clear clinical evidence to suspect an error and (2) multiple PCR tests with no viral load detected, sampled within 48 hours of the initial test. In such a rare circumstance, early release is at the discretion of the clinicians at the Earle Student Health Center.
Furman follows the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SC-DHEC) and Prisma Health (our on-campus health provider). At the present time, guidance indicates that individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 and fully recovered are not required to re-test (e.g., participate in surveillance monitoring) for a period of 90 days since the initial positive test, as long as they remain asymptomatic. The Earle Student Health Center requires documentation of a prior positive test for any student who claims this exemption.
Have questions about quarantine and isolation?