KU will mandate initial COVID-19 testing for campus community, Girod says

photo by: Associated Press

In this Oct. 24, 2019, file photo, students walk in front of Fraser Hall on the University of Kansas campus in Lawrence. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner, File)

Story updated at 7:24 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 5:

The University of Kansas will mandate that all students, staff and faculty members who are able to return to campus take a free saliva-based COVID-19 test, Chancellor Douglas Girod announced Wednesday.

The tests, which will be administered before the semester begins Aug. 24, will be given at drive-up testing sites at different locations. The testing will be conducted by Clinical Reference Laboratory in Lenexa, and Girod said results should be available within 24 to 48 hours of taking the test.

“It is my hope that you will view this testing event not only as an opportunity for you as an individual but also about a chance to demonstrate your responsibility to the health of our entire community,” Girod said in a written message to campus. “If we are to be successful in welcoming more of our population back to campus this fall, all of us will have to do our part. This testing is an important step in the process, and I encourage each of you to take advantage of it.”

Beyond the initial testing period, which will begin later this week when students begin staggered move-ins to university housing, it is still unclear whether KU will be able to test the community as a whole for the respiratory virus. In a frequently-asked-questions section of KU’s new webpage on COVID-19 testing, a question is posed regarding further testing efforts — with a somewhat indecisive answer.

“Results from this round of testing will help determine the frequency and type of future testing efforts,” the answer reads. “KU will continue to test samples of our population in a way that allows us to monitor the spread of disease for as long as we can with the resources we have available at this time.”

Exactly what resources those are remain unclear. However, the cost of the initial testing is funded through $2.8 million allocated by the Kansas Board of Regents through money provided by Gov. Laura Kelly’s office, according to KU.

KU spokesman Andy Hyland said in an email to the Journal-World that some form of test results would be shared with the public.

“We will work with local health authorities to determine the best way to share results of this round of testing with the public while maintaining patient privacy,” he said.

Here are the different options available for testing sites for different members of the KU community:

• Students living in KU Student Housing will have a test provided as part of their staging and move-in process. The staggered move-in process is scheduled to begin Friday.

• Students living off campus will have drive-up testing provided at the KU Park and Ride lots (lots 301 and 302) on KU’s West Campus. Testing will be provided from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Aug. 14 through Aug. 23.

Appointments are required.

• KU faculty and staff on the Lawrence campus will have drive-up tests provided at the future LMH Health West Campus site, near the intersection of Sixth Street and the South Lawrence Trafficway, from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. from Aug. 14 through Aug. 21.

Appointments are required.

• KU Edwards Campus students, faculty and staff will receive testing and will receive separate instructions on how to complete a test before the semester begins. Members of the KU Edwards Campus community may also participate in testing sites in Lawrence if it is more convenient for them.

The Lenexa lab conducting KU’s testing obtained an Emergency Use Authorization from the Food and Drug Administration to offer the test on July 30; Hyland provided a copy of the EUA the newspaper. The EUA does not explicitly address how effective the saliva tests are at diagnosing COVID-19, but does say it is “reasonable to believe that (the test) may be effective in diagnosing COVID-19.”

For anyone who tests positive, those results will be shared with limited people based on who the person is. For faculty and staff, results will be shared with KU Human Resources, the website said. Students’ positive results will be shared with KU Student Affairs and KU Student Housing, if applicable, along with the local health department in order to inform protective actions for our community.

Watkins Health Services, the on-campus health care provider, will also receive notification of positive results, and those who test positive will be contacted by a health official.

KU is asking all patients who receive positive test results to isolate either for 10 days or until 72 hours after their fever is gone without the use of fever-reducing medicine and other symptoms have significantly improved — whichever is longer. The site does not specify what should happen with cases in which people test positive but are asymptomatic.

“I know these are trying times, and I appreciate all of the hard work and dedication our faculty and staff have shown in preparing for the semester ahead,” Girod said. “As we all respond to evolving circumstances, I know members of our Jayhawk community will work together and support each other in the days and weeks to come.”


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