Please review the answers below addressing commonly asked questions.
If your question is not mentioned, please refer to the following contacts:
When you request the university-offered test from Picture Genetics, you’ll receive your testing kit via FedEx two-day shipping. When it’s time to take the test (Remember: we will provide you a specific date on which you must collect your sample.), you’ll activate the kit, collect your nasal swab sample, and mail it back the same day in a pre-labeled overnight envelope. Both you and the university will receive a secure digital report of your test results within 48 hours of receipt of your sample.
Students opting for the university-offered tests through Picture Genetics will incur a $113 charge to their student account to cover the cost of the test. However, Mercyhurst is committed to making COVID-19 testing as affordable and accessible as possible for our campus community by alleviating any undue financial burdens. To this end, Mercyhurst will 100% offset the $113 charge to student accounts through reimbursements with federal funds or institutional aid. Those funds will either be mailed to you by check, directly deposited to your bank account, or applied as financial aid on your bill.
If you've had a positive COVID-19 diagnosis since October 27, 2020, (90 days prior to the start of classes), you can request an exemption. You must be able to provide documentation from your doctor, health department, or other trusted health care provider that shows your positive diagnosis and the date of the diagnosis. If you have recently had a positive diagnosis (after December 27, 2020), you will also be required to submit documentation that shows the date you were released from isolation.
Again, for the reasons mentioned above, we strongly encourage you to participate in testing with our preferred partner. We cannot guarantee that your documentation and/or test will be approved in a timely manner; that may delay your ability to return. You may, however, request an exemption by showing documentation (including the test type, the date the swab was administered, the results of the test, and the location of the test) once you have an approved test administered 72 hours before your first scheduled time on campus. If you choose this option, please note that the test must be an RT-PCR test; results from any other type of test will not be accepted. If you choose this option, please begin planning now to ensure you can have your test administered no earlier than 72 hours before returning to campus.
Yes. Scientists do not yet know whether or not vaccinated individuals can still host and transmit the virus to others. For the protection of our community, you must still participate in testing.
To avoid delays and enroll on time, we strongly recommend it. However, if you are able to provide documentation of an approved test that was administered 72 hours before your first scheduled time on campus, you can request an exemption. Your documentation must be thoroughly reviewed by our Health Center personnel; this may cause a delay in enrolling. In addition, if your documentation or test are insufficient, you will need to pursue an approved test at your own expense.
Based on guidance from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, nearly all students – aside from those who have a documented case of COVID-19 in the past 90 days and who have been released from isolation – must be tested. If you have an unusual circumstance (e.g., a broken nose that will prevent you from doing a nasal test), you can request an exemption. Please know these may not be approved and this may delay your ability to return.
To cover all other testing procedures, there will be a $50 COVID Compliance Fee charged to all students in spring semester billing. (Students in fully online programs are exempt from this fee.) This fee will be 100% offset on your bill via federal funds or institutional aid.
You and the university will have access to your test results. In addition, we are required to share COVID positive results with the relevant health department.
By ordering and participating in pre-arrival testing through Picture Genetics, you are explicitly consenting to testing and personal health information (PHI) disclosure specific to COVID-19, by the testing company to the university so that it may monitor and reduce the spread of COVID-19 on campus, prevent threats to the safety of other community members, and allow the university to assist and reduce health impacts and other harms relating to COVID-19.
While we strongly encourage you to use the university’s testing partner, you may arrange a pre-arrival COVID-19 test with your doctor or healthcare provider. If you choose this option, please note that the test must be an RT-PCR test; results from any other type of test will not be accepted. Students arranging their own tests must also provide the university with official documentation of their negative result, including the date the swab was administered and the location of the test. If you choose this option, please begin planning now to ensure you can have your test administered no earlier than 72 hours before returning to campus.
The current travel order from the Pennsylvania Department of Health requires anyone entering Pennsylvania from another state or country to have a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours prior to entering the commonwealth or to quarantine for 10 days upon entering Pennsylvania. Students who follow the university’s pre-testing protocols, and test negative, will not be required to quarantine.
Not as part of this at-home test effort. This program is meant to ensure concurrent testing of our community in preparation for the spring semester. It is critical that participants adhere to our testing instructions and specified timing.
You will be asked to remain at home until you can provide a negative result from a test collected within 72 hours of your return to campus. You will not be permitted on campus without this information. We cannot guarantee that remote accommodations for missed classes will be available if you delay coordinating, administering, and shipping your test.
If your pre-arrival test returns a positive result, you will be asked to remain at home until your isolation period has ended.
Our first priority will be supporting your health and well-being. For some people, a positive diagnosis results in no or very mild symptoms. Others may have more serious symptoms. If you test positive, a member of the university's response team or a Health Center staff member will be appointed to manage your case; they will contact you and follow up with you on a routine basis throughout the course of your isolation period. By regulation, we are required to share positive tests with the local health department.
For those who are asymptomatic or exhibiting mild symptoms, we will work with you to arrange for you to complete your coursework remotely during this isolation period. For others, your case manager will help coordinate other supports and/or accommodations.
Case management is not a replacement for individual health care. All individuals who test positive are encouraged to seek the guidance of their primary care physician or other trusted health care provider.
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania recently released new guidance for colleges and universities. Their recommendations included pre-arrival testing of students and weekly surveillance testing of a portion of the campus community.
Testing options have substantially improved over the past few months, and we've been able to find reputable testing partners who employ PCR testing (the most reliable test, particularly for asymptomatic individuals) with rapid turnaround times.
In light of these advancements, we are able to implement a robust testing protocol for spring.
Yes. You must have an RT-PCR test that was collected within 72 hours of your return to campus. That test must indicate a negative result. Again, this effort is to ensure that members of our community have been tested within a specific timeframe as we prepare for the spring semester.
The Picture Genetics test uses a self-collected anterior nares sample. It does not require inserting a long Q-tip-like probe up through the nose and to the back of the throat (nasopharyngeal). Instead, you receive specific directions on how to use a smaller Q-tip-like object that you insert into the nostrils and swirl around in the manner the directions state. This makes the test much more comfortable. As long as you carefully follow the instructions, the FDA notes that the accuracy of the test is similar to nasopharyngeal testing.
Absolutely not. Testing in advance of the spring semester provides a "point in time" snapshot of our campus community. It will allow us to screen out and carefully manage any positive individuals before allowing them on campus, ensuring that the incidence rate on our campus is as low as practicably possible. Social distancing, masking, personal hygiene, and daily screening will still be required and strictly enforced. These are the best mechanisms to prevent the spread of this highly contagious, airborne virus.
At the undergraduate level, Mercyhurst University is a residential, liberal arts university. All traditional-aged students must live in campus housing, unless living with their parent/guardian in Erie County, Pennsylvania.
In-person classes may be taken remotely in the event the student has a qualified disability under the ADA which may be accommodated through remote learning. Students interested in requesting an online course as a reasonable accommodation can do so through submitting a request to the ADA Committee through the university's accommodation software.
Additional information can be found in the university’s ADA Policy. If you previously completed the online application for academic accommodations and currently receive accommodations, please log in to your accommodation software account and submit your request through the Additional Accommodation Request Form found in "My Dashboard."
We expect most students and families to understand the importance of protecting self and others from the spread of COVID-19, and to follow campus policies designed to protect the university community.
The university policy on quarantine is taken very seriously. If you choose to come to campus during your quarantine period or violate the quarantine terms, you will be subject to severe and immediate sanctions including a semester of suspension or permanent expulsion (in these circumstances, there will be no refund of your tuition, fees, room or board).
All students, regardless of international status, will be asked to provide a negative test result from within 72 hours of your return to campus. International students will be contacted by the International Student Office to discuss their travel plans.
Mercyhurst University, as an institution, has enacted our pre-arrival testing policy after careful review of CDC guidelines and guidance from local health experts. The International Student Office does not have the authority to offer exemptions to this university policy.
We are still awaiting guidance from SEVP for international students in the Spring 2021 semester. Normally, if an F-1 student will be outside the United States for more than five months, it is not considered a temporary absence. As a result, their SEVIS record is terminated. As of December 8, 2020, SEVP has not released any temporary guidance for students who anticipate being outside the United States for more than five months due to travel restrictions related to COVID-19. The International Student Office will provide more information regarding this matter as it becomes available.
As with any travel outside of the U.S., you will need an unexpired F-1 visa (unless you are Canadian), your Mercyhurst issued I-20 with unexpired travel signature on page 2 (signatures are valid for 12 months from the signature date), and a passport with more than 6 months before expiration when you return to the U.S.
Currently, there are a number of travel restrictions in place in the U.S. These restrictions tend to change quickly — students should be sure to keep an eye on their individual circumstances and should make the decision to travel based on their own comfort level and timeline for return to Mercyhurst. Students should also continue to monitor official advice published by their home government, as well as advice published by the U.S. government at both the DHS website or the Federal Register website.
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services has not announced any changes to its existing OPT application process. Fall 2020 graduates who are physically in the US may begin to apply for OPT in October. The International Student Office will continue to advise students on their OPT applications.
As of July 1, 2020, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services has not provided any changes to its existing STEM OPT extension application instructions. Therefore, students must be physically present in the United States to apply for STEM OPT extension.
Employers may ask their OPT employees to work from home. This will not affect your F-1 status. Students must still report their employment information to ensure they do not accrue days of unemployment in their SEVIS record.
Students who are currently enrolled in the Mercyhurst Student Health Plan have insurance coverage until August when the new enrollment cycle begins. All students, both new and returning, must complete a new health insurance enrollment by the end of July. Please find more information on the Student Health Insurance webpage.