Testing | St. Lawrence University Always Forward: Returning to St. Lawrence


Doing all we can to ensure safety the moment our students step on campus will set the tone for the semester. This will require some cooperation from students prior to their arrival and during periodic testing throughout the semester. We’re motivated by the shared belief that we all have a part to play in our community’s wellbeing. Our goal is to work closely with students, faculty, and staff on practices that keep us all safe.

On-Campus Testing Overview

St. Lawrence University is coordinating with St. Lawrence County Public Health, with the regional St. Lawrence Health Systems, and with The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard to require testing upon arrival to campus for all students and to mandate testing of employees who work on campus (those who have received the Return to Work letter from Human Resources) during student arrival periods and during the semester when students are in residence. (Employees: Please visit the Employee Information section for more details.)

Following the student arrival period each semester, the University will establish a clinic format to test students and employees with The Broad Institute's CRSP SARS-CoV-2 RT-PCR Diagnostic Assay for in vitro qualitative detection of SARS-CoV-2 in respiratory specimens. This means the test is designed to detect the presence of the genomic material of the SARS-CoV2 novel coronavirus, the pathogen responsible for the disease known as COVID-19. The test is a nasal swab administered by each patient under medical observation.

The diagnostic work is performed at the Clinical Research Sequencing Platform (CRSP) which is the clinical testing laboratory at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard.  This laboratory operates under a set of government regulations known as CLIA that allow it to run high complexity molecular tests, such as the one used to detect coronavirus.  The test that is run by CRSP is a modified version of a test developed by the CDC. Results are expected within 24 hours after the laboratory in Boston receives the samples; samples will be transported every evening after the day’s testing clinic.  

Each semester, students who arrive on campus with a negative test result and who have attested to self-quarantining for the days between the test and their arrival on campus will be allowed to assume full campus participation with appropriate social-distancing practices. 

Students who test positive will be placed in isolation until released by a health-care provider if they live more than 500 miles from Canton.  

Students who test positive and who live within 500 miles of Canton should have a plan for returning home safely and when they return to campus will be required to take a second test and have negative results.  COVID-positive students may continue their education online if faculty approve such modality for each course.

Results Notification:

Students will receive an email message when results are available if their result is conclusive and negative. If their test is either inconclusive (which can happen for a number of reasons) or positive, they will receive a call from Health Services.  If it is inconclusive, they will receive instructions for being re-tested. Should they receive positive results they will be moved to a quarantine room immediately.  At this point, they will not have access to their residence hall, the ability to use their id to eat on campus, or access to any other University buildings.  They should always have a bag prepared with resources for quarantine so that they can quickly move to their quarantine room.  Their faculty will be informed that they are unable to attend any in-person class meetings. Should a student test positive, Health Services is obligated to inform Public Health, and Public Health will have an Isolation Order delivered. 

Given the potential for a positive test, we ask that students work out plans before they move to campus for getting home if they live within 500 miles of Canton. 

Fall 2020 Semester Testing Plan

Weekly Tests

St. Lawrence will conduct two clinics a week (Tuesday and Wednesday) using a random sampling of employees and students for selection. (Employees can find information about their tests on the Employee Information page.) Students should expect to be tested at least once every three weeks, with the goal of every other week, and possibly more often. A student's selection date will not be in any pattern; the same student could be selected two weeks in a row, for example. 

Lisa Cania will send an email to the students selected for each week’s clinic and ask them to make an appointment for a test at a date and time from the two days offered that works best for them. Students should not make an appointment unless they receive a notice from Lisa Cania that they have been selected. Clinics will be held in Leithead Fieldhouse.

Wastewater Testing 

The University has implemented an auxiliary surveillance testing process using sampling of residence hall wastewater, with samples brought to Clarkson University twice weekly. Ten (10) on-campus residence halls have dedicated sampling machines that have been installed. Traces of the virus will be present in feces several days before detection through nasal swabs, and early identification of the virus will help us limit further infections.  

Testing for the first two weeks will inform us of the baseline levels of the virus already present. Since some students will have been exposed to or infected by COVID-19 between March and August, we expect some levels to be detected. 

After the first two weeks of baseline analysis, we will watch for increases in any residence hall sample. If we detect increases, the residents of that residence hall will be required to remain in their residence hall, leaving only to pick up meals, until everyone in the residence hall is tested. If we are able to allow inter-residence hall visitations in the future, such visitations will be suspended until further notice. Health Services and St. Lawrence County Public Health will contact any individual who tests positive for isolation and contact tracing.

Spring and Summer Semesters (Semesters II and III)

The University will tentatively will follow the same pattern of on-site testing upon arrival and at intervals, pending advice from St. Lawrence County Public Health and the evolution of testing and/or vaccines and treatment.

  • Tentative move-in/testing dates: January 2-6
  • Second round of testing: January 18-20
  • Randomized testing:
    • January 26 
    • February 2, 9, 16, 23 
    • March 2, 9, 16, 23; 30
    • April 6, 13

Summer Semester (Semester III) dates to be planned once enrollment is known more reliably.