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Miami releases official COVID-19 testing plan

With plans of in-person classes inching closer, Miami University has rolled out a wide-net and surveillance COVID-19 testing plan to test more than 3,000 individuals each week. 

This plan comes after an email to the Miami community from President Greg Crawford on Aug. 31, emphasizing the importance of achieving “a downward trend in positive cases in our community.” 

According to Crawford’s email, the wide-net strategy will allow the university to test individuals who have potentially been exposed to the coronavirus but are not identified as close contacts through the contact tracing process. 

The plan was implemented to contain the spread of COVID-19 through monitoring real-time trends in cases and identifying small clusters and asymptomatic individuals, wrote Dana Cox and Gwen Fears, co-chairs of the Safe Return to Campus Planning and Coordinating committee, in an email to The Miami Student.

Under the newly implemented plan, a student may be selected for a wide-net test if exposed to COVID-19 by living with someone who tested positive.

Cox and Fears said surveillance testing will consist of random sampling with non-equal probabilities using a software algorithm. 

“It’s a bit more strategic than random,” they wrote. “What that means is that students living in large groups are more likely to be selected than students living alone or with just one or two other people. As a result, some may receive invitations more often than others.” 

Cox and Fears said that once a student is selected, he or she will receive an email asking them to schedule an appointment within 48 hours. Testing will be conducted at Harris Hall, a former dining hall on south campus, and will take 10 to 20 minutes to complete. 

Miami will conduct throat swab tests rather than nasal tests, because tests from throat swabs are slightly less sensitive, and the swab itself is easier to tolerate more than once. However, they said that students may request a nasal test when checking in at Harris Hall, if they prefer. 

But with increased testing, there is a concern about the financial burden it could bring. 

According to Cox and Fears’ email, students will not be charged for participating in either wide-net or surveillance testing. Miami’s healthcare partner, TriHealth, will bill an individual’s insurance for the cost of the test, and the university will cover any remaining costs.

“Students will incur no charges or financial responsibility for testing in either our wide-net or surveillance programs,” Cox said. “I can't answer the question of what it will look like on a bill, but all charges beyond those covered by insurance will be paid by the university.” 

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Senior Cody Vandergrift was selected for random testing last week. 

“I felt a little apprehensive at first,” Vandergrift said. 

Although he had tested negative for the coronavirus a few days before being randomly selected by the university, he thought he might as well get tested again because he had roommates who tested positive.

While he hadn’t been to Harris Hall before getting tested, he said the testing space was set up in a professional way. 

“It was set up to almost mirror a doctor's office with separate clinic rooms. It was a quick process in itself,” Vandergrift said.

Vandergrift thinks the university’s previous testing protocols were not very effective. 

“The Student Health Center itself has not been well conducted,” he said. “I have had several friends who have tried to get tested there but were denied because they lacked symptoms, even though they had come into contact with someone who has contracted the virus. Miami’s plan for the virus has seemed very reactive instead of proactive.”

Overall, he does not believe Miami responded well to the pandemic.

“I think much of the burden has been placed upon the students,” Vandegrift said. “Although I think that some individuals are not making the best choices, I also think that the university’s plan was not as extensive, nor was it transparent.” 

@meghnasantra1

santram@miamioh.edu

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