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Monday, Apr 22, 2024

Pre-arrival testing requirement poses logistical, financial challenges to students

All students were required to obtain a negative Covid-19 PCR test within 72 hours before arriving at Middlebury this fall semester, in a change to pre-arrival procedures announced via email on Aug. 17.

Students who had not yet received a test result by the time they arrived — those whose results were ultimately inconclusive — were offered a test from Health Services and were required to stay in room quarantine until they received a negative result. The college also provided Covid-19 vaccinations for those who did not have access to the vaccine before returning to campus. 

For some students, finding pre-arrival testing proved both difficult and costly. 

Shea Brokaw ’24.5 searched for testing sites along his drive from Southern Connecticut to Middlebury, but was unable to find anywhere with availability. When he finally found a testing site in what he thought was Manchester, Vermont, it turned out to be Manchester, New Hampshire.

“I looked in every single town from Connecticut to Middlebury and couldn’t find a single place that would get our results back by Saturday,” Brokaw said.

Brokaw and another student, Will Nemeth ’24, both drove four hours out of the way and ultimately paid $200 each for their tests. 

“Free testing is widely available,” according to the college’s Fall 2021 Semester Information page Q&A about pre-arrival testing. “If you are unable to secure free PCR testing, and the cost of testing presents a significant financial hardship, you may be eligible for assistance.”

Last year, students were not required to get tested before coming to campus. Instead, all students were instructed to complete a 14-day pre-arrival quarantine, and were tested by the college upon arrival to campus. Students remained in room quarantine until they received the results of their Day Zero test.

The college’s decision to require students to get tested prior to their arrival on campus, as well as an indoor mask requirement, followed a nationwide increase in Covid-19 transmission, said Sarah Ray, director of media relations, in an email to The Campus. 

Before the policy was announced in August, the college did not plan to require vaccinated students to quarantine or take any other precautionary steps before arriving for the fall semester. Students arriving early to campus were told of the requirement first, on Aug. 17, with orientation leaders slated to move in fewer than 10 days later. 

Students not arriving early were informed of the pre-arrival testing requirement via email on Aug. 19. 

Pre-arrival testing identified 16 Covid-positive students, who subsequently delayed coming to campus. Unvaccinated students and students coming from international points of origin were tested by the college several times upon and in the weeks following their arrival. 

Joshua Gluckmsan ’25 was not required to pay for his test, but still faced difficulties in finding a testing site. He returned to Vermont from Chicago three days before move-in to spend time with his family, and had to find testing in Vermont to meet the 72-hour timeframe requirement.  

“I was confused because Vermont is like the safest state in the country, but there were no tests,” Glucksman said. 

After his parents engaged in a long email exchange with the school, they eventually discovered that Glucksman’s Middlebury email address allowed him to claim Middlebury as his permanent address, even though he is not a Vermont resident. He drove about 45 minutes to get tested by the state, and received his results just an hour before arriving at Middlebury. The test itself was free and easy, but the process took a toll on him, and took away from time he had hoped to spend with his family before starting college.

Katie Futterman

Katie Futterman '24 (she/her) is a Managing Editor.

Katie previously served as a News Editor and Staff Writer. This past summer, she was a news intern at Seven Days, and she held the same position at the Addison Independent the prior summer. In her free time, she loves to read, write, and bask in the sun.