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COVID Update: Pooled Testing for Students

Dear Students,

We hope your semester is going well! We know you are in the middle of your midterms right now. Please make sure you are taking care of yourself! Our COVID-19 positivity rate remains low thanks to your compliance with vaccination, weekly testing and masking. We are writing today to share an important update on the College’s testing procedures. We are contacting you to inform you of the anticipated change from individual PCR tests to pooled PCR tests for students. Pooled COVID testing will begin on Monday, November 1st. Pooled testing is very similar to our current testing procedures. Please see the new process highlighted below for your review. 

New Pooled Testing Instructions:

  1. The testing center remains the same – Emerson’s Tufts Medical Center (TMC)  testing site (116 Harrison Ave).   You will still be asked about symptoms and recent exposures upon entering the testing site.
  2. Proceed to an individual cubby to sanitize your hands, blow your nose, and sanitize again
  3. Proceed directly to the pooled testing area – please follow the signs for the pooled testing area marked for EMERSON testers
  5. Once you are in the pooled testing cubicle, please tap your Emerson ID
  6. You will see a pile of wrapped swabs in the pooled testing cubicle. Pick up a swab, open it, and swab your nose three times in each nostril as you did before
  7. Place your swab in the large test tube – cotton swab side down. This is critically important!
  8. DO NOT, for ANY reason, reach into the large test tube. If you have dropped your swab or if it missed the test tube please call over a TMC staff member for assistance.
  9. Once you have placed your swab in the test tube please discard the swab wrapper, sanitize your hands and replace your face covering
  10. You are all done!
  11. There is NO change to how you receive results

Staff will be onsite to help guide you through the new process!

New Pooled Testing Results Instructions:

  1. You will receive one of four results: Negative, Inconclusive, Unsatisfactory, or Invalid
  2. If you receive a negative, please continue to test at your regular time the following week
  3. If you receive an inconclusive, you will receive a message to return for an individual PCR test within 24 hours. If you are unvaccinated, you must quarantine until your individual test results come back
  4. If you receive an unsatisfactory or invalid, you will receive a message to return for another pooled test within 24 hours. If you are unvaccinated you do not need to quarantine. There are no exceptions to this retest within 24 hours rule.
  5. If you do not return to the testing center to be retested within 24 hours, a restriction will be placed on your ID that will restrict you from accessing academic buildings and in person classes until you have gone to retest. The Office of Campus Life will be notified of your non-compliance status.
  6. The test center hours are Monday – Thursday, 8:00 am – 6:00 pm and Fridays, 8:00 am – 4:30 pm.
  7. If you are experiencing any COVID symptoms, please call the Tufts Respiratory Center (617-636-3686) to schedule a separate test.

If you have any questions, please contact or check out the FAQs.Thank you for helping keep our community safe and healthy.

Pooled Testing FAQs 

What is Pooled Testing? 

Pooling samples involves mixing several samples together in a “batch” or pooled sample, then testing the pooled sample. This approach increases the number of individuals that can be tested while reducing resources required for testing. For example, four samples may be tested together, using only the resources needed for a single test. 

Why is the College conducting pooled testing?  

The College is utilizing this method to mitigate testing costs, it is more environmentally-friendly, and the College is expecting a relatively lower rate of infection overall due to the current state of the pandemic. 

Is pooled testing safe? 

Yes. Pooled testing is currently being used by many schools, businesses, and organizations, both in Massachusetts and around the country 

What happens if my pool test is negative? 

If the pool is negative, you will not be notified.You can continue to go on campus and do your weekly test. 

What happens if my pool test is inconclusive? 

All community members who took part in an inconclusive pool  will be contacted and must return to Tufts Health Center to retest within 24hrs.Members of an inconclusive pool do not need to quarantine while they await their follow up test results, unless they are symptomatic or unvaccinated. 

How long will it take for pooled testing results to return? 

Typically, pooled test results through the Tufts Health Center are available within 24-48 hours of submission to the testing facility. 

How accurate are the pooled tests? 

Pooled tests are highly accurate in identifying that there is a positive individual within the pool group, as molecular tests are highly accurate at detecting the virus that causes COVID-19. 

Can I attend classes in-person/go to work on campus if I am awaiting the results of my pooled test? 

You can continue to attend in-person on-campus activities as you await your pooled test results as long as you are asymptomatic and vaccinated. 

Are there short videos I can watch that help explain the COVID-19 pooled testing process? 

2021 COVID-19 Testing 

If my pooled test is inconclusive but I’m only on campus one day a week, do I need to come back to take another test? 

This may be met on a case by case basis, and the individual can possibly do a test at home. Please consult with HR or the Center for Health & Wellness, depending on staff, faculty, or student status.

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