Though Ohio University’s new COVID-19 testing strategy began plagued by long lines and organizational troubles, it now allows the university to test about 150 students per day.
OU began randomly testing students earlier this month after the university had signed testing agreements with OhioHealth and CVS Pharmacy. As Phase 2 students returned to campus, OU began administering both random asymptomatic and symptomatic COVID-19 tests for students who think they have come into contact with the virus.
During the first days of testing, many students had to wait in line for upwards of an hour. Some students selected for random testing were not familiar with the Grosvenor West building, where testing is being held, causing them to get lost on the way, and students were trying to enter Grosvenor through different building entrances.
“As noted in my public health update last week, I acknowledge we had a rough start on day one with asymptomatic testing. We worked hard with CVS to correct the problems and I have been happy with the operation since then. Several of my colleagues have gone to be tested and have had very positive feedback,” Dr. Gillian Ice, professor and special assistant to the president for public health operations, said in an email.
Following the problems of the first day of testing, there has been little to no waiting line for students selected to get tested, Ice said in an email.
Students who are eligible to be picked by the university’s random testing strategy includes anyone who was included in Phase 1 and Phase 2 and any student who has used campus resources, including those who have swiped into campus buildings using their student ID cards. Students who feel they have symptoms related to COVID-19 can call the university’s COVID-19 hotline.
Students that have used campus resources but are not living in Athens at the moment can email COVIDoperations@ohio.edu to be exempt from the test, Ice said in an email.
The university has held 1,123 asymptomatic tests so far in Athens, as of Sunday night. Of those, 49 have been positive, according to the data uploaded on the university’s COVID-19 dashboard twice a week. The positivity rate of testing is currently 4.4%, and has been decreasing.
“Asymptomatic testing is an essential part of our COVID management strategy because it allows us to identify asymptomatic carriers who may unknowingly infect others,” Ice said in an email. “This way, the health department can place people with COVID in isolation and conduct contact tracing. Several universities have used this approach and have managed to slow infections down.”
Students concerned that they have been in contact with the virus can report their symptoms to the university’s COVID-19 hotline and later get tested. There have been 611 individuals tested through this method, including both students and OU employees. Of those, 237 of them have been positive.
Of those, 567 students have been tested and 235 of those tests returned positive. There are 67 students that are currently waiting for their test results.
Through the hotline, 44 OU employees have been tested. There have been two tests returned positive with three employees still waiting for their results.
There are 1,345 students living in the residence halls and 82 additional students anticipated to move in this week. There have been 40 students who have been tested who live in residence halls. Of those tests, 13 were positive and six are still awaiting results.
OU has 518 quarantine spaces available for students, and 11 of those are currently in use by residents. There are also 213 isolation spaces available for students with eight of those spaces currently in use.
In the next week, there are eight students that are anticipated to check out of isolation. One of those students was in isolation for either travel-related or non-health related reasons, according to the COVID-19 dashboard. Four students are in isolation for non-travel related quarantine.
There are 77 students currently living off-campus that are in quarantine due to possible exposure. There are 53 students that are in isolation off-campus due to a positive test result.
OU is paying for the asymptomatic testing. Symptomatic testing is usually covered by the individual’s insurance, Ice said in an email.
“Currently, the numbers in Athens are rapidly increasing and that is in large part driven by infections in the student population. We need to slow those numbers down or it will be very difficult to expand the number of students on campus moving forward,” Ice said in an email.
95% of all cases in Athens are among off-campus housing students, according to a weekly public health update sent to students. The update also included an incident report that students can fill out if they think they may have or know someone who might have COVID-19.
Ohio University students living both on and off-campus, as well as university staff, are eligible for both symptomatic and asymptomatic testing.