NEWARK — Hundreds of students tested for the novel coronavirus at a New Jersey Institute of Technology dorm are negative, the school said after finding the virus in its wastewater.

NJIT is currently in phase II of its recovery plan, which calls for only 25 percent of students to return to the campus while most remain entirely on remote learning, according to its online Pandemic Recovery portal. Residents of Cypress Hall went on quarantine and began remote learning only as well, according to a message  posted to the school's website last week. 

The school has received the results of 263 swab tests, all of which came back negative, according to spokesman Matthew E. Golden. Another three students required re-testing due to their original test samples leaking.

Twenty-three students who chose the quarantine at home instead of at the door will not be permitted back on campus until they provide negative test results to NJIT, the school said.

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NJIT is routinely screening sewage for the virus, an early detection mechanism the University of Arizona last month credited with helping prevent a sizeable outbreak.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, which has established a national database to collect the results of wastewater testing from various jurisdictions, wastewater can be tested for RNA from the virus. Similar testing has been effective for early detection of other diseases, such as polio, according to the CDC.

The virus — SARS-CoV-2 — can be shed in the feces of infected people with or without symptoms, according to the CDC. It said wastewater testing can be a leading indicator of COVID-19's presence in a community, but doesn't replace testing of individuals.

"While SARS-CoV-2 can be shed in the feces of individuals with COVID-19, there is no information to date that anyone has become sick with COVID-19 because of direct exposure to treated or untreated wastewater," the CDC says.

NJIT has nine total cases of COVID-19 with five recovered as of Sept.14, the school reported on its website.

"Our most important priority is the health and wellness of our campus community, and we remain confident in the safety of our facilities for our students, faculty, and staff," Golden said.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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