UVA expanding asymptomatic testing efforts

UVA expanding asymptomatic testing efforts
Chalk art on UVA Grounds reminding folks to maintain social distancing. (Source: WVIR)

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - As part of the University of Virginia’s push to expand COVID-19 testing efforts, students can now be randomly selected for mandatory asymptomatic testing.

“We’re calling it prevalence, or surveillance testing," UVA Department of Medicine Chair Dr. Mitch Rosner said.

The university is targeting asymptomatic COVID-19 carriers that may not even know they have the virus, especially those living off of UVA Grounds.

“It’s the off-Grounds students that we didn’t have a monitoring system for. So for them we’re really focusing on the random selection of students on a daily basis," Rosner said.

UVA has already started to select 50 students a day to be tested. In the coming weeks, upward of 150 UVA students will be selected daily. The university says tests will be conducted using a nasal swab, and according to Rosner, takes less than 10 minutes to complete. Results are expected to be received within a 24-48 hour period.

“We email them two days ahead of time so that they can schedule into their workflow. We give them a specific time, a phone number to call that they can reschedule if they can’t make it. We even help them get transportation to the testing center. So we try to make it as easy as possible for students to get there,” Rosner said.

There’s no clear plan for making sure students actually get tested once notified, but Rosner says noncompliance will be handled on an individual basis.

“The students have signed an agreement when they returned back recognizing that testing is really mandatory. Now that being said, we recognize students may have other things they may be doing at a particular time, so we’re really working with them on an individual basis. We know who we sent out the invitations to get tested," Rosner said.

Although staff and faculty can only receive one asymptomatic test through UVA Health every 60 days, that rule does not apply to students.

“If they’re [students] tested today as part of a random selection, but if they’re identified as being potentially in significant contact, we would test them again, as well,” Rosner said.

Rosner said at the end of September and going into October, the University of Virginia will implement rapid screening measures using saliva that can test hundreds of people a day.

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