Delaware State University mandates COVID-19 testing for all students, faculty and staff

Delaware State University

Delaware State University's campus. (Mark Eichmann/WHYY)

Are you on the front lines of the coronavirus? Help us report on the pandemic.

Delaware State University is slated to welcome students for hybrid learning mid-August and will be one of several historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) piloting a regular testing program for their students. It will be mandatory for all students, staff and faculty.

Testing for America, a new nonprofit, with support from the Thurgood Marshall College Fund and the United Negro College Fund will help DSU with the frequent testing of up to 3,000 people.

The university enrolls close to 5,000 students, but they’re not all returning this semester. The 3,000 tests should account for everyone who does set foot on campus, said LaKresha Moultrie, the university’s vice president of legal affairs.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

“Our goal is to test regularly and then to cater our plan to each student, staff and faculty person’s level of activity to make sure we’re monitoring them at a frequency that can keep our campus community as safe as possible,” she said.

Say there’s an employee who reports to work on an as-needed basis, explained Moultrie, that person would be considered low-risk and would get tested less frequently. Students who work off-campus or students who are engaged in athletic activities, would have a higher risk of exposure and would be tested more often.

Testing will complement the university’s other mitigation strategies, which include robust contact tracing and a separate dorm where students can quarantine when necessary.

“We know that health disparities, in particular, affect people of color throughout this country,” said Delaware State University President Tony Allen in an appearance on the Today Show.

“COVID is also affecting communities of color, and our students, and we think it’s very important to protect their safety and also make sure that we can continue their … education so they can get to the finish line,” Allen said.

The program is made possible through private donations, and New Castle County Executive Matthew Meyer has also agreed to set aside $100,000 in CARES Act funds to make testing possible.

Other HBCUs, including Lincoln University, are expected to create testing programs of their own, though the details are still being hammered out.

Test results can return in as little as 24 hours, according to Dr. Joan Coker, adviser to Testing for America. She said the nonprofit hopes to process up to 100,000 tests a day.

This model, she said, could not only protect students at HBCUs, but it could also become a model for all higher learning institutions.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

“So not only do we have a seat at the table as HBCUs, but we may be able to set the table in this circumstance,” said Coker on Today.

Get daily updates from WHYY News!

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal