19% of students may have disregarded Stanford testing policy

Oct. 22, 2020, 10:27 p.m.

Every student on Stanford’s campus is supposed to get tested for COVID-19 every week, according to University policy. But analysis of Stanford data suggests that 19% of students have been out of compliance with this policy since arriving on campus in September.

Around 5,900 students currently reside on campus, University spokesperson E.J. Miranda told The Daily on Tuesday. But Stanford’s own COVID-19 dashboard shows only an average of 4,971 tests were completed in the previous five reported weeks.

The findings come a week after the University announced an all-time high in conducted tests, a record uptick in cases on campus — with nine positives recorded the week of Oct. 12 — and loosening COVID-19 restrictions surrounding student activity on campus. This rate of non-compliance has trended downward in recent weeks, however — from the high of 19% in the week of Sept. 21 to the low of 13% in the week of Oct. 12.

“Student participation in the testing program has been good and growing, and reached a new high last week, but we are still building toward 100 percent participation,” Student Affairs spokesperson Pat Harris wrote in an email to The Daily. “Shortly, we will begin sending reminders to individual students who are not meeting the weekly testing requirement, as a first step toward supporting full compliance.”

Harris wrote that regular testing is a “critical practice” in combating the spread of COVID-19 along with “follow-up measures including exposure notification, quarantine, and isolation.”

Asked directly what the exact non-compliance rate is, the University repeatedly did not respond to The Daily’s requests for comment.

Vaden Health Services head James Jacobs wrote in an email to The Daily that “there is a requirement for weekly testing” for “all” students.

Several factors could make the exact non-compliance rate higher or lower than these estimates. Variation in the precise number of students on campus at different times could lead to discrepancies. Additionally, if students living off-campus are tested, and those tests are included in Stanford’s testing figures, a higher percentage of students may not be compliant with the weekly testing policy. Another factor that could mean an actual figure higher than our estimate: Students can opt to get multiple tests a week. Football players are tested every day, but it is unclear if all of their test results are included in the COVID-19 dashboard.

Additionally, if it is different students who are missing tests each week, the proportion of students who have ever been non-compliant with Stanford testing policy could be higher than 19%.

The University did not respond to requests for comment on how many students living off-campus are subject to the weekly testing requirement, the number of distinct students getting tested every week as well as the number of students receiving multiple tests per week.

Stanford recently reiterated its plans for frosh and sophomore students to be invited to campus for winter quarter.

Ari Gabriel and Arjun Ramani contributed reporting.

Contact Sam Catania at samcat ‘at’ stanford.edu.

Sam Catania ’24 is the Volume 262 Editor in Chief of The Daily. Previously, he was Chief Technology Officer, the producer of the weekly video roundup, a news beat reporter covering COVID-19 on Stanford's campus and the assessment team leader of The Daily's Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) team. Sam hails from Philadelphia and is studying Symbolic Systems. You can follow him on Twitter @sbcatania. Contact him at scatania 'at' stanforddaily.com

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