Aug. 18 Message to Students: Updates on CWRU's COVID-19 Testing, Exposure and Protocols

To Our Students:

With less than a week to go before the start of the fall semester, we want to update you regarding the university’s COVID-19 testing to date and clarify the steps that follow the university-administered test for individuals who are able to take classes on campus.

Initial Testing of Asymptomatic Students

As noted in the July 9 message from the president and provost, Case Western Reserve’s testing plan began with screening of undergraduates living on campus (e.g. in residence halls or Greek housing), and will be followed by undergraduates living off campus, and then graduate and professional students attending classes on campus.

Since testing of undergraduates living on campus began Aug. 8, our university staff have administered about 800 tests. We expect to begin testing of students living off campus and attending classes in person later this week. Graduate and professional student testing will begin early next week. University Health and Counseling Services (UH&CS) will notify students of their testing windows in advance.

Those who are not feeling well should not come to an on-campus testing site; instead they should contact University Health Services at or 216.368.2450.  

Students must come to be tested within their designated windows of time. Walk-ins will not be tested outside of their designated windows.

Testing of Students with Symptoms

Any student attending classes on-campus who has COVID-19 symptoms should contact health services right away at 216.368.2450.

This guidance applies whether a student is living on- or off-campus and whether the student is an undergraduate, graduate or professional student. Being able to evaluate and test students who may be infected quickly is essential to protecting those students as well as all of the people with whom they come in contact.

This number is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and callers can receive medical guidance right away; University Health Services staff will contact the individual the following day for a more comprehensive evaluation.

Students with Positive Test Results

UH&CS contacts students with positive test results to provide guidance regarding isolation—which, for on-campus students, involves relocating into dedicated on-campus spaces and having meals delivered. Off-campus students who test positive will be directed to isolate within their living space; if they live with others, they should stay within a single room (e.g. a bedroom), and talk with those residing with them regarding how to limit all contact (University Health Services can suggest specific strategies based on circumstances). All students in isolation receive medical, mental health, social and academic support.

As part of this process, UH&CS asks students diagnosed with COVID-19 about other individuals with whom they may have come into close contact during the previous several days. Close contact is determined by the nature and duration of interaction; for more detailed information, please visit the UH&CS website.

The staff’s questions of the student who tested positive, and any other students who may have been exposed, are focused entirely on determining close contacts for the purpose of ensuring they receive the correct guidance about their exposure. In other words, unless students pose an active danger to themselves or others, the information is not shared beyond UH&CS.

Students Who May Have Been Exposed

Students who believe they have been exposed to someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 should contact 216.368.2450 or Just because someone with whom you have interacted has COVID-19 symptoms or has tested positive, however, does not mean that you have been exposed to or infected with COVID-19.

Most students who contact us learn that they did not in fact have a true exposure (as defined by public health and Centers for Disease Control guidelines).

Depending on the situation, University Health Services may recommend testing. Being tested does not necessarily mean that a person will have to quarantine; by the same token, being tested does not exempt someone from quarantine. Rather, it is a necessary measure to help determine the extent of potential infections and better protect the campus community.  

If a student who lives on campus does have to quarantine, the university will provide the same support as if the student was in isolation—that is, they will have meals delivered and receive medical, mental health, social and academic support. Students living off campus but attending classes in person will not have meals delivered if required to quarantine, but will receive the other forms of support.

Stay Healthy, Stay Here

After so much time spent learning and working remotely, it can be exciting to be on campus with classmates—and a little unsettling. Returning students accustomed to embracing—or at least fist-bumping—friends they have not seen for months instead bump elbows or merely nod. Instead of crowding into a booth or around a table, they sit 6 feet apart, sometimes even having to raise their voices to be heard.

Yet with recent news about other college students ignoring guidance about the need for wearing masks and maintaining physical distance—and, in some cases, quickly rising case counts—the need for such inconvenient measures becomes increasingly clear. We all have spent enormous time planning for a semester where students, faculty and staff join to pursue the university’s mission of learning and discovery—while also staying as safe and healthy as possible.

Given these realities, student leaders have launched the Stay Healthy, Stay Here effort to encourage students to support one another in reducing COVID-19 infection risks. It includes the campus commitment you watched in your re-orientation training modules (and can be found in text form on the Return to Campus website), and related signage and social media posts you will see increasingly around campus and online. Our ability to have a full semester together depends in large part on our willingness to honor this health guidance and protect one another.

We recognize that none of these steps are easy, but we also know that you are more than capable of making them a reality. Thanks to everyone who is wearing masks, staying 6 feet apart, and patiently waiting in line to be tested—we appreciate all that you are doing for yourself, and the Case Western Reserve community.

Sara Lee, MD
Executive Director of University Health and Counseling Services

Lou Stark
Vice President for Student Affairs