Covid pre-arrival testing slip-up creates confusion among students

According+to+the+Covid+dashboard%2C+as+of+Wednesday+evening+there+were+26+positives+out+of+1%2C857+arrival+tests.+%28Photo+by+Caroline+Burns+22+for+The+Lafayette%29

Photo by Caroline Burns

According to the Covid dashboard, as of Wednesday evening there were 26 positives out of 1,857 arrival tests. (Photo by Caroline Burns ’22 for The Lafayette)

Trebor Maitin, Assistant News Editor

The college’s Covid-19 testing plan fell apart after pre-arrival tests failed to ship on time–if at all–to many students, sewing confusion over the updated Covid protocol. Mailboxes remained empty as the testing kits slated to arrive by Jan. 14 did not begin to arrive until at least Jan. 19, one day after the tests were to be returned.

Annette Diorio, vice president of Campus Life and a member of the COVID-19 Action Group, acknowledged in a Jan. 20 memo that the delay was due to the testing company having “encountered an issue with [the] process.”

“The testing company shipped them on the 18th, as best as we can tell, but we had already instructed students on the 17th not to plan to return the tests,” Diorio wrote in an email. “I do not know precisely what occurred, the only information we have from the testing company is that they had a computer issue the day the shipment was to go out.”

A number of students have yet to receive their tests.

“My test never came–I’m on campus now and I still don’t think it has arrived at my house,” Christian Festa ‘24 said.

“I never got mine at all,” Brenna Girard ‘25 said.

Spokespeople for GENETWORx, the college’s testing partner, did not respond to multiple requests for comment. 

Lafayette initially restricted students from post-arrival testing and classes until a negative “lab verified test result” was submitted to the college, threatening disciplinary action if subsequent testing was missed, but backtracked after the tests failed to ship.

“You should continue to plan for your scheduled arrival to campus even if no pre-arrival test kit is received from GENETWORx,” Diorio announced in a Jan. 17 memo. She went on to recommend, but not require, any Covid test: PCR, rapid antigen or at-home test be taken before returning to campus, rejecting a need to upload the results.

The quickly changing recommendations left many students confused as to how to go about their first days on campus.

One first-year, who wished to remain anonymous, wrote in an email that the process “made no sense” and was “hard to navigate.”

“I got a test through the Aura thing but it never came,” the first-year student said of the software component of the GENETWORx laboratory. “I tested myself before coming here and I also had covid over break but I didn’t submit it and the school has no record of me being negative. I’m so confused because they haven’t followed up or anything so I don’t know what to do.”

Aura is the GENETWORx app required to order the pre-arrival tests and schedule tests throughout the semester.

Director of Health Services Jeffrey Goldstein explained in an email that the decision not to require the uploading of test results was due to the national shortage of Covid tests in December and early January. Goldstein went on to state that arrival testing, scheduled through the Aura app, was “very efficient and we were quite happy with the overall process and turnaround time.”

Festa, one of the students who did not receive a pre-arrival test, “didn’t have any problem” securing a post-arrival test.

Despite the pre-arrival testing slip-up and the comparatively smooth post-arrival testing process, the COVID-19 Action Group has urged students to remember that Covid tests are not permanently representative of one’s infection status.

“Testing, at any point in time, is a snapshot of what is happening at that moment and is not an assurance of the future,” Diorio wrote. “Negative arrival test does not assure our community that no one will develop COVID later this week or next week or the week after.”