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’s current testing strategy is outlined below. This strategy is subject to change as circumstances change or as additional information and resources become available.
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 and anticipate the potential prevalence of COVID-19 among non-residential students, VCU will test all residential students and 2% of non-residential students prior to their return to campus. 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 prevalence testing pool that will be ongoing throughout the year.
Q: How will students be tested prior to their return? When does testing begin?
A: VCU will partner with Kallaco, a national lab network for integrated testing to mail residential students personal testing kits prior to their return to campus. The kit will contain instructions for how to conduct personal testing and mail samples back for analysis. There will be no cost to the student for this test. Students will receive instructions to set up an account to receive test results.
Q: What kind of tests will be 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: How long will it take to get test results and when will students be notified of results?
A: Tests will be analyzed within three days of receipt. Students who test positive will be notified. All results will be made available in an app or web portal. Residential Life and Housing will communicate details to residential students.
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 should not come to campus. The CDC and VDH provide guidelines for how and when to isolate/quarantine. For details visit www.vdh.virginia.gov/content/uploads/sites/182/2020/04/Home-IsolationQuarantine-Release-Graphic_FINAL.pdf.
Q: How will positive test results be reported?
A: Testing laboratories are required to report positive tests to VDH, and will report test results to student health and VCU’s public health response team.
Prevalence testing monitors the prevalence of the virus within a specified population. A sample of the population is tested regularly. Prevalence testing at VCU is voluntary and will be conducted by VCU Health System.
Q: How will VCU monitor the prevalence of COVID-19 in the VCU community?
A: Prevalence testing at VCU will be conducted daily and will include up to approximately 5 percent of the residential students and up to approximately 2 percent of all other community members. This testing will be at no cost and is voluntary.
Q: What kinds of tests will be used?
A: VCU Health is improving the capacity and capability of its testing daily. Currently we will use viral, oropharyngeal swab tests to conduct prevalence testing. This is an oral test. However, once saliva tests are validated, then we will switch to those. Neither the oropharyngeal nor saliva tests are the more invasive nasopharyngeal swab test in the nose.
Q: When will prevalence testing begin?
A: Prevalence testing will begin in August after students return to campus.
Q: How can I volunteer for prevalence testing?
A: A link to sign up for prevalence testing will be emailed to students and employees and posted in their myVCU portal. VCU seeks to test a representative sample of students and employees, therefore those who volunteer may or may not be able to participate in prevalence testing.
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 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: What is the current guidance about testing?
A: According to guidance from the CDC, VDH and VCU Health science and medical experts, testing is recommended for individuals experiencing COVID-19 symptoms as well as all close contacts of those diagnosed with COVID-19.
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.
Q: If I am asymptomatic, can I get tested? Is there a cost?
A: In addition to the no-cost voluntary prevalence testing, VCU anticipates making “at-will” testing available for asymptomatic students and employees at a cost to be determined. More detail to come later in the summer.
Q: Will VCU report numbers of tested and confirmed cases of COVID-19 within the VCU community?
A: VCU will report 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: 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. VCU will move residential students who test positive or who develop symptoms to a residence hall where students can isolate. Members of the VCU community who are identified through contact tracing related to this exposure will be asked to quarantine for 14 days, pending testing. 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.
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: VCU is working with the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) to hire trained contact tracers who will be charged with identifying and contacting any student and employee believed to be in contact with a COVID-19 positive individual.
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: VCU will offer testing to exposed students and employees at no cost to the student or employee. 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 CDC recommendations or until they receive a negative test result. 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 does not record or share any personal information. 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. 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. Residential students and students participating in entry testing will have the additional option to complete the daily health survey in an app (details to come).
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. In August, VCU will offer temperature screening units in various campus locations.
Q: Who must complete the daily health surveys?
A: The daily health check survey is required for all returning students, designated employees, employees returning to work on campus, and hybrid-telework employees based on the date/phase they return to campus. Employees who continue to telework exclusively will be required to complete daily health surveys starting Aug. 17. 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). Employees who continue to telework exclusively will be required to complete daily health surveys starting Aug. 17.
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.
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: What happens to my responses?
A: Your survey responses will not be stored nor will the information provided be accessible to others. VCU only tracks whether individuals respond.
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.