LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - The University of Kentucky on Tuesday released plans for testing up to 30,000 students for COVID-19 as part of its plan to restart in-class instruction on Aug. 17.
The testing details are the first in a series of announcements UK will make over the next few weeks regarding steps to protect the health, safety and well-being of the campus community as it prepares for the fall 2020 semester.
Between Aug. 3 and Aug. 22, student testing (for all students — undergraduate, graduate and professional) will be available at no cost to students at five sites on campus and offered through a third-party expert — Lexington-based testing and genomics company, Wild Health — that has been retained by the university, officials announced Tuesday.
The idea is to create a baseline for university officials as plans are implemented for ongoing daily screening, contact tracing and other health measures. Utilizing a third party for testing also will enable UK HealthCare to maintain its capacity for testing health workers, first responders and the community.
“Our plan for testing — and our campus restart — is designed to be high-tech and high-touch,” said UK President Eli Capilouto. “We will be utilizing the best practices technology has to offer while also increasing our staffing capacity to provide our community with the health connections and resources necessary to continue to provide the education, research and service so crucial to our mission for Kentucky. We want to make it as easy as possible to be safe.”
UK’s efforts also are guided by a UK Health Corps. team made up of public health experts and professionals with experience in contact tracing and screening. This team will, throughout the semester, connect the campus community with health resources and other necessary support.
Testing will start Aug. 3 and continue through Aug. 22 (the first week of classes) at five sites on campus to accommodate students. Sites will include:
- The Blue Lot at Kroger Field.
- UK-owned houses between State Street and University Street.
- The area between Boyd Hall and the former Blazer Dining facility.
- Greek Park off of Rose Lane.
- William T. Young lawn at Hilltop Avenue and Woodland Avenue.
- UK has retained Lexington-based company, Wild Health, to conduct and analyze tests. Wild Health (https://wildhealth.com/) already has run testing programs for both Keeneland and Churchill Downs.
- Student testing will take place between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. each day, including weekends. The university can test up to 2,000 students a day, with projected test results delivered in about 24 hours.
- All students who are, or will be, coming to campus are required to receive a test. (Students who take all their classes online and do not plan to visit the campus for any reason are not required to be tested).
- Students also will have the option to supply the university with test results conducted outside of initial testing on campus. That test must be an approved PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test and conducted within seven days of the student’s arrival date on campus.
- For students living in on-campus housing, their arrival date is defined as their scheduled residence hall move-in date.
- Students living off-campus, who want to complete their test off-campus, should do so within seven days of the date they first plan to arrive on campus for any reason (e.g. to buy books, etc.)
- UK is making arrangements for students who utilize off-campus testing to send or upload those results to UK’s University Health Service.
- Students who are under the age of 18 will receive a consent form for their parent or guardian to sign before they come to campus.
- For on-campus testing, students will use an easy web-based application to schedule. They will receive a text message with a link that will direct them to the private and secure portal to schedule their test. Students should schedule their tests before arriving to the test site.
- Students who test negative will be notified via email that their results are available; those results can be accessed via a link to a secure, HIPAA-compliant portal on the web-based application.
- Students who test positive will be contacted by phone by a member of the UK Health Corps. team. The team will provide the students with instructions, resources and other necessary support.
- Students who test positive will be required to quarantine in accordance with CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and state public health guidelines. UK Health Corps. will support them with the resources they need to ensure their health.
- For on-campus residents, UK has reserved the University Inn and what previously was graduate housing on Rose Lane for quarantining. Students who live off-campus should be prepared to quarantine in their private residences or in other accommodations.
- Multiple Wild Health staff members will be stationed at each testing site to facilitate the process. UK also is hiring 15 members of a newly established Health Corps, which will include contact tracers and wellness coordinators, who can help students and members of campus access health resources and education. More details about that process will be announced in the coming days.
- The university is working on a follow-up student testing protocol for the rest of the semester.
- UK faculty and staff returning to an on-site work location are not required to take a test prior to returning to their on-site work location.
- Details about the on-site employee screening and testing process will be provided soon.
Over the next several days, UK will announce plans for a number of related health initiatives for campus restart. Those will focus on:
- The technology and process involved in daily screening that every UK student, faculty member and staff member — or someone who is about to come on campus — will be asked to conduct.
- An application under development that students and UK campus faculty and staff can utilize to assist with daily screening. For community members without daily access to that technology, other arrangements are being made.
- Plans for contact tracing using the UK Health Corps., in which health professionals will work with community partners on contact tracing and connecting UK students, campus faculty and staff with resources when they need them.
- Plans for continued work and university operations. Many employees will continue to work remotely, when possible. Decisions about who is to return to work, or when, are being made by department and unit directors, who have been provided with detailed instructions about that process.
- The provision of PPE (personal protective equipment) for students, faculty and staff. All members of the UK community, for example, will be provided two cloth masks and other protective items.
- Technology being installed in classroom settings throughout the campus to accommodate in-class, hybrid and remote learning situations.
- Details on dining operations to maximize service and health.
- Details about move-in for students who live on campus and which will begin Aug. 8.
Details about the on-site employee screening and testing process will be provided soon.
Students do have the option of taking a test on their own if they don’t want to take one of the university’s tests. It has to be a certain time or type of test, a PCR, and it has to be conducted within seven days of when that student would arrive on campus.
Even with all these steps, the university acknowledges, things can change at any moment. They tell us they have multiple backup plans, in case they have to increase testing or even move back online.