Provost: KU will again require COVID-19 testing for spring semester, but more details not yet known

photo by: Conner Mitchell/Journal-World

COVID-19 protocols adorn a doorway on the University of Kansas campus.

Barbara Bichelmeyer, the provost and executive vice chancellor at the University of Kansas, told members of a KU governing body Tuesday that KU would again mandate COVID-19 testing upon a return to campus for the spring 2021 semester.

Exactly what that required testing will look like is still up in the air due to how quickly technology around COVID-19 testing is evolving, Bichelmeyer told the Senate Executive Committee — a group comprising KU faculty, staff and student leaders.

“We have about three and a half months as we’re looking through and understanding how testing technology is changing and what costs associated are with different kinds of testing, and trying to see what financial support we’ll have for testing,” she said.

At a minimum, Bichelmeyer said, the testing operation for the spring semester on KU’s campus will reflect what it was in the fall, with symptomatic patient testing, prevalence testing and random population testing continuing after the mass entry testing program concludes.

“We know we’ll be doing that and be trying to find the most accurate tests that are the least expensive with the most rapid turnaround and see how much we can continue to do that,” she said.

Ahead of the fall semester, KU instituted a mandatory testing program for everyone returning to campus using a saliva-based COVID-19 test from a Lenexa-based lab that garnered an Emergency Use Authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The program tested over 22,000 people returning to the Lawrence and Overland Park campuses, and identified 546 positive cases that could then isolate and not further spread the virus, according to KU’s data.

KU received nearly $3 million from Gov. Laura Kelly’s SPARK Taskforce and the Kansas Board of Regents to fund the initial mass entry testing program, but that money has to be spent by the end of 2020. Bichelmeyer indicated that KU officials are currently working to determine what financial assistance might be available to fund the spring testing program.

KU’s spring semester will begin later than normal due to the pandemic, and is scheduled to start Feb. 1, with no spring break currently planned.

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