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U. of Georgia outlines COVID-19 testing plan for return to campus

The fall semester is just around the corner, as is the return to campus for students, faculty and staff. With this in mind, the University of Georgia has outlined its approach to COVID-19 surveillance testing and notification for its campus community that will begin on August 10, with the first day of UGA’s Phase Three reopening plan.

According to an official update from the University of Georgia’s COVID-19 Medical Oversight Task Force, the plan calls for 24,000 COVID-19 tests to be conducted by Thanksgiving at a rate of 300 tests per day on samples collected from faculty, staff, and students that volunteer to be tested. UGA will hire five staff members — three medical professionals and two support staff — to carry out the program, with specimen collection to be conducted at an outdoor location.

Joining the testing measures will be a screening and notification tool recommended by the task force, called DawgCheck. The tool consists of a Qualtrics form, made available on the UGA app and website, which will prompt all faculty, staff, and students to perform a quick symptom check each weekday. The symptom check is strongly encouraged, and anyone with a positive test will be required to report the test via DawgCheck.

UGA’s University Health Center will conduct the sampling, with testing to be performed by the university’s Veterinary Medicine Diagnostic Lab, which recently earned certification to process human samples. The university’s total investment in the new testing measures has reached $1.2 million to date.

Notification of a positive test by a student will alert a Student Care and Outreach team, whose members will reach out to help coordinate medical assistance, meal delivery, housing while in isolation, notification to professors, and other assistance. An automatic notification also will be sent to Facilities Management to signal the need for disinfecting of specific areas. Those reporting positive tests will also be asked to recall their contacts, and this information will be shared safely and securely with the Georgia Department of Public Health to help facilitate contact tracing.

Testing asymptomatic members of the campus community will be voluntary and free to participants. UGA is seeking student participation from residence halls, off-campus apartment complexes, fraternities and sororities. UGA is also asking for faculty and staff who self-identify as being at a higher risk for COVID-19 to volunteer to be tested.

UGA expects test results to be available with 48-72 hours and delivered privately to each participant, and as required by law, to the Georgia Department of Public Health. Participants who test positive must use DawgCheck to communicate their results and should identify the places they have been on the UGA campus as well as provide information on campus individuals with whom they have been in contact.

In addition to the testing measures, UGA has also added protocols for social distancing, use of face coverings, and intensified cleaning measures. UGA’s Phase 3 of return, beginning on August 10, will see all faculty and staff return to campus unless they have been approved for telework.

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