The University is continuing to screen students and staff on campus for COVID-19 using the same testing as last semester as well as new self-administer tests, water testing and vaccinations for those within the priority groups.
In combination with COVID-19 tests that are administered by healthcare professionals, WVU has introduced self-administered tests this year that allow students and faculty to swab their own nasal passages under the guidance of a trained medical professional.
Dr. Carmen Burrell, medical director of WVU Medicine Urgent Care and Student Health Services, said testing has been ultimately successful this semester, with only about 1% of faculty and students combined testing positive for COVID-19.
“There’s an instructor at the table, who kind of walks them through the steps to self-swab,” Burrell said. “They walk you through opening up the kit, what you need, how you swab yourself and then you collect the specimen, put it in the container, fill it out, then drop it in the back to be sent off.”
The University has also been testing water samples for any traces of the virus in order to monitor for COVID-19 and then prioritize testing where it is needed most, Burrell said.
This testing began last summer and is run by the WVU COVID-19 wastewater testing team, who take daily samples of wastewater from student housing and other buildings on campus then look for the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19.
According to the University, the collection team includes Timothy Driscoll, assistant professor of biology, Gordon Smith and Brian Hendricks, of epidemiology, and Emily Garner, of civil and environmental engineering.
“This can tell us the trend of infection among a population,” Driscoll said in the article. “Ideally and theoretically, we can use this as a predictor. If we see COVID in the wastewater start to increase, we can raise the alarms and have more targeted public health interventions, such as increased testing in that area.”
Vaccinations are another way that the University can control the spread of COVID-19. As the vaccines are becoming available in the state for those ages 80 or older, Burrell said that WVU Medicine has already vaccinated some staff who were within that age requirement and will continue to do so for staff and students as the vaccine becomes available to more people.
“We have been vaccinating the staff and faculty who qualify within the age group right now, our first vaccination clinic was on Dec. 30,” Burrell said. “For every week, we get a certain allotment that is sent out to those eligible employees.”