An Update on College Employee and Subcontractor COVID-19 Testing Protocols

While COVID-19 has disrupted campus life substantially, Swarthmore employees and outsourced subcontractors have achieved a degree of normalcy on campus work through extra safety precautions. The college has committed to weekly testing for faculty and staff who are on campus at least once a week, with an average of 511 tests completed each week. 

As of November 17, 6,011 COVID-19 tests have been completed for Swarthmore College faculty and staff members. Fourteen of these tests have returned positive results and four additional positive tests from external sources, such as an employee’s primary care physician, have been reported to the college. College employees who come to campus less frequently must report a negative COVID-19 test within 7 days of their visit, regardless of if they plan to come into contact with members of the college community. Test kits are available by mail for these college employees.

Once a positive case has been identified, contact tracing starts immediately. While most of the college employees who tested positive have returned to campus under the guidelines of the College’s Returning to Work on Campus after Testing Positive for COVID-19 protocol, two are still in isolation as of November 17. Swarthmore’s returning to work protocol states that college employees who test positive can return to campus 10 days from the start of symptoms or date of the positive test and must be symptom-free for at least 24 hours. A negative COVID-19 test result is not necessary for employees to return to campus. Alice Turbiville, Assistant Vice President for Finance & Controller at Swarthmore College, oversees the employee testing program and expressed confidence that COVID-19 has not been passed from an employee to any other member of the campus community. 

“Fortunately, there is no indication that there is community spread on campus,” concluded Turbiville. 

Turbiville further explained that the college’s testing program is reserved for faculty and staff and does not include subcontractors who visit campus to work on one of the many ongoing construction projects. Contractors, however, are required to have their own COVID-19 protocol. 

“Each contractor that comes to campus has been vetted to ensure that those companies have their own COVID-19 safety procedures and that they abide by the college’s masking and physical distancing requirements while on campus,” stated Turbiville. 

Joe Bray, a Project Manager at LF Driscoll, stated that LF Driscoll does not implement a testing protocol but is following strict guidelines based on the recommendations of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the Pennsylvania Secretary of Health. 

As of November 3, 2020, two individuals working onsite have tested positive. Bray explained that the company quickly responded to the positive test results and was able to control any potential spread. 

“To date there has been no construction job site transmission of the virus on the Lang Music Building project. We have been notified that  individuals who have been on site had symptoms and subsequently tested positive for COVID. When this occurred we immediately began the response protocol agreed to by LFD and our subcontractors on site,” stated Bray.

LF Driscoll’s response protocol includes contact tracing and proactively removing individuals from the on-campus construction site. The two subcontractors who tested positive and their crews have since left the site. Representatives from Swarthmore College and LF Driscoll, the construction company working on the Lang Music renovation project, have stated that their respective protocols have prevented the spread of COVID-19 on campus.

Skanska is the general contractor working on Singer Hall. Their COVID-19 policy has no mention of testing but includes safety measures taken to limit exposure including social distancing, a zero-tolerance policy for coming into work sick, and PPE mandates. We were unable to speak with a representative for Skanska.COVID-19 test results for students, faculty, and staff are updated weekly on the COVID-19 Testing Results page.

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