Testing and screening
The screening and testing of the VCU community continues to evolve based on the availability and efficacy of viral testing protocols as well as guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), the state and the VCU Health System. It is important to note that testing is just one component of a comprehensive strategy to reduce transmission and will be conducted in conjunction with several other mitigating controls – promoting behaviors that reduce the spread of COVID-19, increased cleaning, contact tracing and daily health monitoring among others.
VCU offers the following testing options for VCU community members. Please see the dropdowns below for details about all aspects of VCU’s testing strategy. This strategy is subject to change as circumstances change or as additional information and resources become available.
Symptomatic testing: VCU community members who report symptoms to either Student Health Services or Employee Health may be referred for COVID-19 testing at a testing location on-campus. This will be conducted at no cost to students or employees. Students and employees can only receive a COVID-19 test if they are referred by Student Health Services or Employee Health, therefore it is essential that students and employees report symptoms by calling 1-804-MYCOVID or 1-804-692-6843. Students and employees who do not present any symptoms of COVID-19 are not guaranteed a test.
Asymptomatic prevalence testing: VCU randomly samples asymptomatic VCU community members to participate in COVID-19 testing each week at on-campus locations. VCU community members who wish to participate in COVID-19 testing, but who are not presenting with symptoms of COVID-19, can volunteer to participate in asymptomatic testing. VCU will contact you if and when you are selected to participate in asymptomatic testing. Residential students are automatically enrolled in the asymptomatic testing pool. Non-residential students and employees must volunteer by filling out this online form. It is important that you make every effort to complete your test during the week you are invited to participate. See below for details.
Entry testing refers to testing students prior to their return to campus. At this time the CDC does not recommend entry testing for the purpose of establishing that a particular population is free of COVID-19, citing the limited usefulness of a single administration of testing (single administration could miss cases in the early stages of infection or subsequent exposures resulting in transmission, and would only provide COVID-19 status for individuals at that specific point in time). However, to help mitigate COVID-19 positive individuals returning to campus housing, VCU tested all residential students prior to their return to campus this fall. This purpose and approach is consistent with current CDC guidance on the use of testing to determine whether any additional actions are needed based on test results.
Q: Who must participate in entry testing?
A: Entry testing is required for residential students. Non-residential students may opt-in to the asymptomatic prevalence testing pool that will be ongoing throughout the year.
Q: How were students tested prior to their return to campus this fall?
A: Residential students were mailed personal testing kits prior to their return to campus. The kit contained instructions for how to conduct personal testing and mail samples to a lab for analysis. Students were also given instructions for how to receive test results.
Q: What kind of tests were mailed to students for entry testing?
A: Personal testing kits contain a viral, oropharyngeal swab test that can be conducted at home. This is an oral test and not the more invasive nasopharyngeal swab test in the nose.
Q: What do students do between taking the test and coming to campus?
A: Between taking the test and returning to campus, students should minimize contact with others as much as possible. When contact with others takes place, students must practice safe behaviors and follow all the established health and safety protocols including wearing a face covering, practicing physical distancing, and hand washing.
Q: What should students do if they test positive for COVID-19?
A: Students who test positive for COVID-19, whether through entry testing or otherwise, must not come to campus and must contact Student Health Services by calling 1-804-MYCOVID or 1-804-692-6843.
Prevalence testing requires VCU to test a sample of asymptomatic VCU community members monthly – approximately five percent of residential students and approximately two percent of non-residential students and employees. Residential students are automatically enrolled in asymptomatic prevalence testing, however non-residential students and employees must opt-in.
Q: How will VCU monitor the prevalence of COVID-19 in the VCU community?
A: As outlined in our Return to Campus plan, asymptomatic prevalence testing targets, as set by our Public Health Response Team, are up to approximately 5 percent of residential students and up to approximately 2 percent of all other community members per month. Although the plan notes daily asymptomatic testing, we moved from daily testing to Monday through Thursday test appointments as we were able to accommodate the appointments in four days. Symptomatic testing continues to be conducted daily. This testing will be at no cost. The scope and focus of prevalence testing will be updated through the term based on guidance from public health and infectious disease experts.
Q: What kinds of tests will be used?
A: Currently we use viral, oropharyngeal swab tests to conduct prevalence testing. This is an oral test, not the more invasive nasopharyngeal swab test in the nose.
Q: When will prevalence testing occur?
A: Prevalence testing began in August and will continue for the foreseeable future.
Q: How can I volunteer for prevalence testing?
A: To volunteer for prevalence testing, fill out the online form at covidtest.vcu.edu/. Each week, VCU reaches out via email to the individuals who have been selected to participate in prevalence testing the following week. In the email, participants will receive information about next steps, including how to schedule a 10-minute testing appointment, how to access test results and other information. Because the sample population for prevalence testing will change daily to ensure those tested are representative of the VCU community as a whole, we need as many faculty, staff and non-residential students as possible to opt into the pool.
Q: If I am unable to participate in prevalence testing, but want to get tested for COVID-19, what are my options?
A: See testing options below.
Q: Who conducts the test?
A: Testing is conducted by VCU Health System clinicians. VCU and VCU Health System partnered with Kallaco, a software company that helps community members monitor test results.
Q: Who will analyze prevalence testing data?
A: VCU’s Public Health Response Team will analyze prevalence testing data alongside Employee Health and Student Health Services reports and guidance from the CDC, VDH and VCU Health. This information will inform decisions about VCU operations (see Reporting Data and Impacts on Operations below).
Q: Can I reschedule my prevalence testing appointment?
A: Yes, you can reschedule your appointment for a different time during the same week (Monday through Thursday). Appointments can be rescheduled using the appointment scheduling link you received in the invitation email.
Q: I have been instructed to quarantine or am in isolation. Should I still attend my prevalence testing appointment?
A: No, you should not attend your prevalence testing appointment if you have symptoms of COVID-19 or have been instructed to quarantine or are in isolation.
Q: If I participated in prevalence testing, how do I receive my test results?
A: The invitation email includes instructions for setting up your Kallaco account to sign a consent form prior to being tested and access your test results when they are available. Your test results will be posted to your account approximately four business after the test has been conducted. You should monitor your account until your results are posted.
Q: What if my test results are positive?
A: If your test results are positive, immediately report your positive test by calling the VCU COVID-19 call center at 1-804-MYCOVID or 1-804-692-6843. For more information about the reporting process, visit together.vcu.edu/protocols/reporting.
Q: What is the current guidance about testing?
A: According to guidance from the Virginia Department of Health and VCU Health science and medical experts, testing is recommended for individuals experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.
Q: Will VCU test symptomatic individuals? What will it cost?
A: Testing for those within the VCU community who are experiencing symptoms (both on-campus and off-campus) will be conducted by VCU Medical Center at accessible locations at no direct cost to students or employees. If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and believe you need to be tested, call 1-804-MYCOVID or 1-804-692-6843 to be connected with Student Health Services or Employee Health. Students and employees must be referred for testing by Student Health Services or Employee Health.
Q: If I am asymptomatic, can I get tested? Is there a cost?
A: In addition to the no-cost, voluntary, asymptomatic prevalence testing, VCU anticipates making “at-will” testing available for asymptomatic students and employees at a cost to be determined. More information about “at-will” testing will be communicated as decisions are made or as additional testing resources become available. For more information about when to get tested, vist www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/testing/diagnostic-testing.html#who-should-get-tested. For information about testing sites in Virginia visit www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus/covid-19-testing/covid-19-testing-sites/.
Q: Will VCU report numbers of tested and confirmed cases of COVID-19 within the VCU community?
A: VCU publishes a public dashboard Monday through Friday that includes metrics based on the data reported to VCU Student Health Services and Employee Health. VCU also reports all testing results to the Virginia Department of Health, which maintains publically accessible deidentified data.
Q: What happens if there is an outbreak? How will VCU make decisions about operations?
A: If a cluster of cases occurs in one of our residence halls, for example, then VCU’s Public Health Response Team will work to determine if the hall needs to be closed and how infected students will be isolated. If prevalence testing for the community shows an increase disproportionate to the prevalence in the greater Richmond community, the epidemiologists at VCU Health and VDH will be tasked with determining potential causes and making recommendations. If a significant portion of our student body is affected, then partial or full campus closure may be the recommendation, depending on the number of affected community members.
Q: What conditions could cause a change in operations for VCU?
A: In implementing our Return to Campus plan, VCU’s Public Health Response Team works with VDH to make recommendations about safety protocols and operations based on several data points, including:
- The rate of positive tests at VCU
- The prevalence of COVID-19 in the VCU community vs. the prevalence of COVID-19 in the Richmond area; VCU's Public Health Response Team monitors the asymptomatic positivity rate as an indicator of the prevalence of COVID-19 in our community
- Excessive demand for isolation/quarantine residence hall space
- Hospital capacity
- Test availability and result time
This information is subject to change based on new information and guidance from the Virgnia Department of Health.
Q: How does VCU track the positivity rate in its community?
A: In line with our Return to Campus plan, VCU and VDH members, who attend and are actively involved in Public Health Response Team meetings, are working together to monitor positive testing rates in our community as well as in the surrounding Richmond area. VCU's Public Health Response Team monitors the asymptomatic positivity rate as an indicator of the prevalence of COVID-19 in our community. Due to our differing populations, testing rates, and several other factors, public health professionals, including VDH, advise us that the CDC definition of “positivity rate” is not an appropriate comparison metric.
Q: Why can’t VCU compare its positivity rate with the Richmond area’s positivity rate?
A: VCU’s symptomatic and asymptomatic testing results are now posted on our dashboard. Percent of asymptomatic positive tests are monitored alongside the Richmond area's positivity rate as reported by the Virginia Department of Health. VDH does not track positivity rates by symptomatic and asymptomatic testing which makes direct comparisons difficult. VCU and VDH are working together to determine a comparable metric between the VCU and surrounding Richmond community that accounts for both symptomatic and asymptomatic testing as well as the differences in population size and other factors. Once this is established, we will update our Return to Campus Plan.
Q: Is there a process for quarantine and isolation?
A: Isolation processes are established for on-campus residential students who present symptoms or test positive for COVID-19. Quarantine procedures are established for those who have been in contact with a COVID-19 positive individual, but present no symptoms. Residents who are confirmed positive with COVID-19 or presenting symptoms associated with COVID-19 will be moved to isolation housing. Members of the VCU community who are identified through contact tracing related to this exposure will be asked to quarantine for 14 days. VCU will follow CDC guidance related to support of these students. Residential Life and Housing set aside rooms in a separate building for potential isolation and quarantine needs for on-campus students. Student Health Services will monitor the student’s health and will coordinate with Residential Life and Housing to support food delivery, communication, and other needs. For more information about isolation and quarantine housing, visit housing.vcu.edu/together/isolation_quarantine/.
Non-residential students will be asked to quarantine or isolate in their personal residence or other appropriate location.
Q: How will VCU monitor and communicate with those who have been in contact with a COVID-19 positive individual?
A: Student Health Services and Employee Health Services report information to the Virginia Department of Health (VDH). VCU and the Virginia Department of Health work together to contact those who are known to have been exposed to someone who tests positive for COVID-19 so they may monitor their health and quarantine.
Q: Will those who have been in contact with a COVID-19 positive individual be tested for COVID-19 even if they don’t present symptoms?
A: Students, faculty and staff who have been exposed to someone who has a positive viral test or a clinical diagnosis for COVID-19 shall self-quarantine for no less than 14 days after their last exposure in accordance with VDH recommendations. If they have no symptoms after 14 days, they may return in person to work, class, or other community or clinical engagements.
Q: What is the daily health survey?
A: Returning students and employees are required to complete a brief health survey each day. Per the One VCU: Responsible Together plan, these surveys are required and help monitor the overall health of the VCU community. VCU only tracks if users do or do not respond.
Q: How can I access the survey?
A: All students and employees can access the survey directly at dailyhealth.vcu.edu (residential students access their daily health survey through their Kallaco account). A reminder email will be sent daily to those required to complete the survey, including weekends for employees who work over the weekend. There is a survey link in the email; a link can also be found in your myVCU portal. All users can also access the daily survey via the VCUMobile app by clicking CampusReady (students) or WorkReady (employees).
Q: What does the health survey ask? Should I check my temperature daily?
A: The health survey will ask if you have any symptoms related to COVID-19 (fever, cough, shortness of breath, loss of taste or smell, chills, sore throat or muscle aches). Students and employees should check their temperature daily with a personal thermometer. Temperature screening units are also available at various campus locations.
Q: Who must complete the daily health surveys?
A: The daily health check survey is required for all students and employees, even those who learn or work remotely. Clinical faculty who already complete a daily health check through VCU Health System will not receive the daily health survey from VCU.
Q: If I take classes exclusively online, must I complete the daily health survey?
A: Yes, even students who take classes exclusively online must complete the daily health survey. Everyone monitoring their health daily is important to the success of VCU’s return to campus plan.
Q: Do I take the survey every day?
A: Students receiving the survey must respond daily, including weekends, when school is in session. Employees must only respond on the days they work. Employees are not required to respond if they are off from work or on approved leave.
Q: What about the days I’m working from home?
A: Employees must also respond on the days they work from home (e.g., hybrid-telework employees who are only on campus one day each week, but work from home four days each week, must complete the health survey all five days).
Q: What should I do if I respond positively to the survey indicating that I have symptom(s) of COVID-19, and I am at home?
A: Stay home, notify your professor or manager of your situation and notify Student Health Services (students) or Employee Health (employees). The daily survey will provide contact information and steps to follow. Both Student Health Services and Employee Health can be contacted via a call center line at 1-804-MYCOVID or 1-804-692-6843, where students and employees who are experiencing symptoms can discuss testing options and other appropriate next steps.
Q: What should I do if I respond positively to the survey and I am at class or work, indicating that I have symptom(s) of COVID-19?
A: Notify your professor or manager of your situation, notify Student Health Services (students) or Employee Health (employees) and leave work or class limiting contact with classmates or co-workers.
Q: What happens if I don’t take the survey?
A: Continued non-compliance with the requirement to complete the daily health survey is subject to disciplinary action. There will be no disciplinary action connected to non-completion of the survey while an employee is out on approved leave.
Q: Whom do I contact if I have technical issues with the daily health survey?
Q: Besides testing, what else is VCU doing to support health and safety?
A: In addition to enhanced cleaning practices, cleaning supplies and personal starter supply kits, VCU is promoting healthy behaviors with signage and ongoing communication. Students and employees are required to complete training prior to returning to campus and attest to following the health and safety guidelines established. Failure to comply with the safety guidelines will result in disciplinary action up to and including termination (for employees) and suspension (for students). Students and employees are also required to conduct daily health checks for symptoms. If any symptoms are present, they are required to contact the university.