College expands take-home testing eligibility to all undergraduate students

West Gym is closed for in-person testing on Wednesday and Thursday after the rollout of take-home tests.

by Sam Brook | 10/26/21 5:00am

by Caroline Kramer / The Dartmouth Staff

As of Oct. 20, all undergraduate students can receive COVID-19 take-home tests from West Gym, according to an email from the COVID-19 response team. Previously, only varsity athletes, graduate students and staff were eligible. 

In the same email, the COVID-19 response team announced that in-person testing operations would be reduced from five to three days a week — now Monday and Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Friday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. — due to the assumption that take-home testing will lessen the need for in-person testing. 

College spokesperson Diana Lawrence noted that the convenience of take-home tests, coupled with staffing shortages in the Upper Valley, in large part prompted the shift. 

“The objectives of this transition are threefold: autonomy, flexibility and convenience.” Lawrence wrote. “This new process allows the community to complete the testing on their own schedule and reduces the time people spend waiting in testing lines, so they can minimize any disruption to their schedule. It also provides convenience, offering what we hope is a minimal walk to the nearest drop box.” 

Interim Provost David Kotz added that the previous space used for in-person testing, Leverone Field House, has since been repurposed for athletics, noting that there are no other spaces “big enough to test 6,000 people a week” on campus.

Teddy Glover ’25 is optimistic about the potential of take-home testing, seeing the new model as a welcome change after enduring long in-person testing wait times, ill-timed hours and a lack of multiple testing locations.

Foster Burnley ’22, a player on the men’s lacrosse team, has been taking at-home tests since arriving on campus. Burnley said that he picks the tests up from his trainer once a week, noting the convenience of doing them “on his own time.” 

Elizabeth Fahrmeier ’25, a member of varsity women’s tennis team, said she had been taking in-person tests but has since switched to take-home ones. She said that in her experience, take-home tests are identical to in-person tests, except that the former must be dropped-off at designated points on campus within 12 hours of taking the swab. 

The COVID-19 response team noted in its email that there currently exist 11 drop-off points, with five also serving as pick-up points. Lawrence added that more drop boxes will be added in the coming weeks. 

According to Kotz, the College will not shift to a fully take-home testing model, opting to maintain its three days of in-person testing. But he noted that the College may be able to use the West Gym for athletics in the future.  

“There will always be some walk-in testing available… [as] some people want to test more often… and the first time [students and staff] get tested [on campus], they have to go for a walk in,” Kotz said. “At some point, maybe [take-home testing] will allow us to reduce the amount of in-person testing, which allows us to use the West Gym for other purposes.”

In recent weeks, some students have been non-compliant with Dartmouth’s testing policies, which currently require vaccinated individuals to test weekly and non-vaccinated individuals to test bi-weekly: Non-compliant students have received emails instructing them to get tested. Beginning this week, the Office of Student Affairs will enact new policies — the specifics of which are still being decided, according to Kotz — to better ensure testing adherence.

“The people who have been routinely not testing are going through the community standards process, meeting with the undergraduate [Community on Standards] office,” Kotz said. “The purpose of that process is to remind… [students that testing] is an expectation, in fact, it’s a requirement … It’ll be noted that this has happened in their internal records.”

In addition to testing adjustments, Kotz noted that the Boss Tennis Arena will no longer serve as isolation housing. Instead, it will be used for its intended purpose leading up to the Big Green Invitational in two weeks. The Dartmouth Outing Club house on Occom Pond will now be used in case of an outbreak, capable of holding roughly 15 people, Kotz said.

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