By: KDKA-TV News Staff

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. (KDKA) — Penn State announced on Friday that it will randomly be testing students for Coronavirus starting on Monday, August 24.

The university says it estimates 1% of the population on campus, including students, faculty and staff, will be tested each day through a surveillance testing program. The program is to identify asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19 in order to mitigate the spread of the virus on campuses, Penn State says.

Students, faculty and staff selected by the program will be contacted via email and text. They will answer a few screening questions and follow their specific campus’ process for testing. According to Penn State, testing is free and anyone selected by the program should get tested within 48 to 72 hours of being contacted. Those who do not participate in testing will be reported either to the Office of Student Conduct or Human Resources depending on whether that person is a student or an employee.

This program was originally discussed in July when the university was developing its health and safety plan. Other parts of the program include a daily symptom checker, contact tracing as well as surveillance and monitoring of cases on Penn State’s campuses.

“COVID-19 surveillance is a necessary and critical part of our strategy designed to keep our community healthy and to watch for signs of the virus on our campuses,” said Kelly Wolgast, director of the University’s COVID-19 Operations Control Center. “One hundred percent participation is important as we seek to mitigate the spread of the virus. It is imperative that everyone who is selected for surveillance complete the process so that we can then proactively mitigate the consequences of a positive COVID-19 result, and ultimately for the overall health of our entire community.”

Depending on the results received from initial tests, testing could expand to more than just 1% of the population on campus per day and community members could be selected for testing more than once throughout the semester.

“Conducting asymptomatic surveillance provides us with the opportunity to detect cases in people who may not feel ill, which is a critical step to reduce the spread of disease,” said Cara Exten, assistant professor of nursing who is leading the surveillance effort. “The program will allow us to have a more complete understanding of the rates of infection in our community, which will ultimately enable us to respond more effectively.”

People who test positive for the virus will be asked to quarantine and cooperate with contact tracing investigations.

The University of Pittsburgh announced a similar program for COVID-19 testing two weeks ago.

Penn State has a COVID-19 dashboard available for public viewing here.


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