Testing and other COVID-19 updates
Provost Persis Drell, Lloyd Minor, dean of the School of Medicine, and Russell Furr, associate vice provost for environmental health & safety, provide an update on the COVID-19 testing program as well as a preview of plans for students returning to campus from travel during the upcoming spring break.
Dear Stanford community,
We hope you are well as we enter the latter stages of the winter quarter. We are writing today to provide an update on our COVID-19 testing program, as well as a preview of our plans for students returning to campus from travel during the upcoming spring break. The bottom of this message also provides some reminders about when you need to update Health Check.
Based on the current status of the pandemic, we are now planning to transition to a more targeted COVID-19 testing program that focuses on those who are experiencing symptoms, concerned about possible exposure or returning to campus from travel.
For faculty, staff and postdoctoral scholars who are vaccinated for COVID-19, Stanford will suspend the requirement of weekly asymptomatic surveillance testing beginning March 1. For fully vaccinated and boosted students (undergraduates, graduate students and students enrolled in professional school programs), required weekly testing will continue through the end of winter quarter and the first two weeks of spring quarter, then likewise will be suspended.
We strongly recommend that you test whenever you are experiencing symptoms, concerned about possible exposure or returning to campus from travel. Over the coming weeks, in addition to Color testing kits, we will be making available a limited supply of rapid test kits to supplement those available from the government and retail sources. More information is available here.
Twice-weekly testing will continue to be required for faculty, staff and postdoctoral scholars who are not fully vaccinated, and for students who are not fully vaccinated and boosted. And, Color testing will continue to be available, up to two tests per week, for anyone who wishes to continue to use Color for regular asymptomatic testing.
Why this shift? Our Testing and Vaccine Committee has continually monitored the trajectory of the pandemic and now advises that the best way to manage spread at this point in the pandemic is by using a risk-based approach with rapid diagnosis and response for individuals who are displaying symptoms or are in settings with higher risks of exposure. The phased drawdown of surveillance testing, with required testing lasting a little longer for students, is based on the on-campus living situation for much of our student population and the large number of students we expect to be returning to campus from spring break in a compressed period of time.
We are fortunate to have a highly vaccinated community, and we also have gained greater experience with the Omicron variant, which among vaccinated individuals has generally resulted in fewer serious cases and hospitalizations than previous variants. While we are moving from asymptomatic to symptomatic testing for our vaccinated population, we will continue to monitor conditions, including future variants that may have different characteristics, and will be prepared to further adjust testing protocols as needed.
Return from spring break
We are planning to return from spring break to in-person instruction for the spring quarter. To support the return process for students who travel during the break, the university plans to distribute rapid tests to students prior to the start of spring break.
Students who travel during the break should complete a rapid test before beginning their return trip. (Details on obtaining test kits will be provided in a follow-up email.) Those who test positive should delay their return travel and update their status on Health Check.
Then, students returning from travel should test twice using Color during their first week back on campus in spring quarter and once during the second week of the quarter. Students who do not travel during the break should test once during the first week of the quarter and once during the second week. Color turnaround times are expected to be much shorter than following the winter break, with fewer tests being processed in Color’s system. More information will be provided to students as we get closer to the break.
As we did in the autumn and winter quarters, we also expect to have limitations on student gatherings for the opening weeks of the spring quarter. We want to get back to in-person engagement as quickly as possible. However, we have seen many recent positive cases attributable to social gatherings, and with large numbers of students returning from spring break travel all at once, we want to take reasonable steps to minimize the numbers who test positive and need to go into isolation. We will send details on social gatherings in a subsequent communication.
For faculty, staff and postdoctoral scholars, please update Health Check with your booster details and documentation if you haven’t already done so.
Unvaccinated employees should continue to complete Health Check every day before coming onsite and reporting to work.
If you are vaccinated, please update Health Check any time you:
- Experience COVID-related symptoms if you are scheduled to work onsite or if symptoms began within 48 hours of your time onsite.
- Test positive for COVID on a non-Stanford test or on any rapid test.
- Are instructed to quarantine or isolate by another entity, such as a county health department.
- Are a close contact of someone who has COVID.
- Return from international travel.
Also as a reminder, Santa Clara County recently announced that masking requirements will remain in place until certain conditions are met, which could come in the next few weeks. We will continue to monitor the situation and will let you know when changes to campus protocols on face coverings are possible.
Thank you for your understanding, your flexibility and the many ways you are supporting the work and wellbeing of our university community.
Dean, Stanford School of Medicine
Associate Vice Provost, Environmental Health & Safety