Kansas State University will not implement mandatory COVID-19 testing for students, faculty and staff upon returning to campus this fall, according to Dr. Kyle Goerl, medical director at Lafene Health Center.
“It doesn’t seem to do much good to test an entire group of individuals once with no plan to do further surveillance testing,” Goerl said during a Virtual Town Hall Meeting put on by K-State officials Tuesday. “And so, we have elected not to do that at Kansas State.”
This route is different than the one being taken by the University of Kansas, which is requiring everyone returning to campus to get tested for COVID-19 before fall classes begin.
K-State will still test people who show symptoms consistent with COVID-19.
Goerl says that between the Lafene Health Center, Biosecurity Research Institute and Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, K-State has formed a robust testing system that can return test results to patients within a day to a day and a half.
“That is critical for our ability to contact trace adequately,” Goerl said. “That’s the best way to try to mitigate the spread of the virus. That is to identify cases, quickly identify them, then contact trace them, identify the contacts and get the contacts quarantined.”
According to Goerl, patients in other parts of the country have to wait up to one or two weeks before receiving their test results.
“Once you’re beyond about three days, your ability to contact trace adequately dramatically diminishes,” Goerl said. “It pretty much falls off a cliff after about three days.”
Beyond regular testing for COVID-19, K-State will also be implementing what Goerl calls “enhanced testing.”
This involves testing higher risk groups along with their contacts and also identifying outbreaks.
“For example, we have a group of several cases on one particular dorm floor,” Goerl said. “We’ll likely be testing the remainder of that dorm floor in order to make sure we’re catching any cases that may be asymptomatic or presymptomatic.”
K-State’s testing plan will be open to change as supply availability can play a part in what the university is able to do.
Goerl says that while testing is important, physical distancing, wearing face masks and washing hands will play key roles in determining whether the fall semester is successful.