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McRobbie announces COVID-19 testing, tentative plans for fall semester, research



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IU President Michael McRobbie announced updates on the fall semester, research activities and a new COVID-19 testing partnership in an email sent Thursday afternoon to the IU community.

The email included results of the IU Restart Committee’s report, which, based on current health data, recommended the fall semester be conducted in a hybrid model that includes at least some in-person instruction. 

TESTING

Starting June 1, IU Health will provide COVID-19 screening to students, faculty and staff who are experiencing symptoms of the virus. 

Members of the IU community, including those outside the state, can access the service 24/7 through One.IU.

A virtual assistant will analyze a person’s reported symptoms and determine whether they need to be screened by a medical professional online. Those who are then referred for testing will be sent to one of 15 partner testing sites in the state including Bloomington and Indianapolis.

The samples will be sent to the IU Health Pathology Laboratories in Indianapolis, which McRobbie said has the largest testing capacity in the state at more than 6,000 tests a day. The results are typically available in 24 to 36 hours.

“This is the gold standard for testing in Indiana,” McRobbie said in the email.

RESEARCH

Nonessential research activities will be phased back in starting June 1, and as much on-campus research as possible will be resumed by July 1, McRobbie said.

McRobbie said it is especially important to help graduate and clinical students get back into research as part of their educational process. A Laboratory Research Restart Committee will be reviewing the overall restart report to finalize a more complete research plan.

“This committee will also continue to meet regularly to assess its recommendations in light of new information about COVID-19, new regulatory requirements and changes in the capacity of our communities to respond,” McRobbie said.

FALL SEMESTER

The report released by the Restart Committee said IU’s plan for the fall semester includes a hybrid model that incorporates both in-person and online instruction.

Decisions in the report are based on recent data about decrease of hospitalizations in Indiana and projections of a continued decrease through May. IU still will need proper risk mitigation, contact tracing and testing in this scenario, according to the report. 

Both McRobbie and the report said this plan could change if updated health data show the need for a different response.

“We must be constantly aware that the sheer unpredictability of the pandemic and the response to it from numerous quarters means that we may need, at any moment, to pause our plans or even reverse them,” McRobbie said.

Many of the current recommendations center around increasing physical distancing and hygiene measures in spaces across campus. 

The report recommended cloth masks be worn in public spaces, including in classes. It also said every student, faculty and staff member should be provided with two masks.

Double occupancy rooms will still be available for freshmen staying in residence halls, but students in vulnerable populations will be able to request a single occupancy room.

Individual campuses have been asked to report their individual reopening plans by May 26.

“We will almost certainly face more challenges and trials in the weeks and months ahead,” McRobbie said. “But I am confident we will meet them — with the same toughness, fierce resolve, humanity and empathy that carried us through a difficult spring semester.”

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