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‘It’s easy to get one, it’s easy to do’; Miami’s Covid tests are being widely used

Miami University received 10,000 additional at-home COVID-19 antigen testing kits as of Sept. 8 as tests have been in-demand the first three weeks of classes. 

Steve Large, assistant vice president for health & wellness, wrote in an email to The Miami Student that between Aug. 10 and Sept. 1, 2,500 tests were distributed to students. 

Students are allowed to pick up the tests for free at four different locations on the Oxford campus including Armstrong Student Center, King Library, the Rec Center and in any student residence hall.

The tests take 15 minutes to complete. Students swab both nostrils and insert the swab into the package for results. Similar to a pregnancy test, the package shows one or two lines; one line indicating a negative result and two indicating a positive one.

Large wrote he suspects so many tests are being used due to their convenience and no cost. 

“Students, faculty and staff are welcome to request as many tests as they need,” Large wrote. “We suggested requesting tests in intervals of three to hopefully ensure access to anyone interested in using a test.”

The take-home tests are administered through Abbott BinaxNow and are intended for screening asymptomatic individuals for COVID-19, not individuals with symptoms or individuals who believe they have been exposed, Large said.

The tests are different from the PCR and saliva tests used by Student Health Services, according to Miami’s testing website, and the antigen tests are intended to be used on a regular, consistent basis rather than a one-time test. 

Large said a single use of the antigen test among asymptomatic individuals has a sensitivity of about 30-35%. 

“This means that if 10 individuals who have COVID-19 take the test, approximately 3-4 will test positive, and the others will be false negatives,” Large wrote.

Large suggested taking 2-3 tests per week to improve the sensitivity to 50-60%.

Kalynne Corson, a junior biology major, said her roommate picked up two tests from King Library for the both of them after they started experiencing cold symptoms.

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Corson said she didn’t know the tests were for asymptomatic individuals, but her result came back negative.

“I really wasn’t experiencing too many symptoms, I just had a really bad cold,” Corson said. “My roommate had the same cold, and she was on antibiotics, so I didn’t really think it was anything too crazy. It was more like this was me wanting to confirm [that I didn’t have COVID].”

Corson said she was satisfied with the negative she received despite the lower accuracy percentage of only taking one test. She is vaccinated, but felt it still didn’t hurt to check, she said.

“I really like that [Miami] offer[s] them,” Corson said. “I appreciate it. It’s easy to get one, it’s easy to do. I don’t see why anyone shouldn’t. It’s not taking too much out of your day. All of the buildings that they offer them in, you’re gonna pass one at some point in the day, might as well grab it.”

The at-home antigen tests instruct students to log on to Telehealth to be proctored during the tests. If students do not proctor the tests, their positive result will not exempt them from Miami’s testing program, and negative results will not allow them to be removed from quarantine early.

As of Sept. 14, there are 77 active student COVID cases and 19 active employee cases. Large wrote there is currently no accessible information on the take-home test statistics.

An email to students on Sept. 8. from the COVID-19 Response Team noted that the FDA has extended the shelf life of the tests from 6-9 months to 12 months, rendering the expiration dates on the tests incorrect. New expiration dates are cited in the test brand’s product update.