The University of Kansas plans to distribute a saliva test for COVID-19 to every student, staff and faculty member through a partnership with a Lenexa company, leadership said in a video message Wednesday.
While details of the plan are still unclear, people will be tested at the beginning of the semester when they return to campus and throughout the semester as needed when they become symptomatic, Chancellor Douglas Girod said.
KU will distribute saliva tests, though it’s unclear how. A KU spokesperson said further updates would be shared at protect.ku.edu. The tests are free, and should have a “rapid response turnaround,” Provost Barbara Bichelmeyer said.
Girod said during the video message the saliva test would be more manageable than a nasal swab, while still being effective to test for COVID-19.
“This is the safest way to get our campus open,” Girod said. “We want to make sure we start the year out with as healthy of a campus as we can in the fall.”
Watkins Health Services will partner with Clinical Reference Laboratory, Lawrence Memorial Hospital and the University of Kansas Health System to coordinate the testing plan.
CRL, a commercial lab in Lenexa, will help process the high volume of tests and conduct broad-scale testing.
“Watkins is a busy place without a pandemic, so we’re going to need some additional assistance, and fortunately these health partners are really stepping up,” Girod said.
KU leadership is still working on a plan for contact tracing efforts, Girod said.
Girod did not share specific details of how many tests would be needed on a daily basis, how much testing would cost, or when these tests would first roll out to students. Erinn Barcomb-Peterson, a KU spokesperson, told the Kansan no additional information is available at this time.
Masks will also be mandatory on campus, Bichelmeyer confirmed in the video message. The enforcement policy is still in the works, but KU officials plan for it to be addressed similarly to student conduct violations.
KU will also provide quarantine spaces as needed for students living on campus — this will include dedicated rooms in campus housing, according to Student Housing’s coronavirus plan.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment asked anyone arriving in Kansas from Arizona or Florida to self-isolate for 14 days. Housing will send information regarding expectations to residents from areas on the travel list, according to its plan.
In Kansas and Douglas County, cases of the coronavirus have increased in recent weeks.
Douglas County had 74 confirmed cases when it entered phase three of its reopening plan on June 8, which allowed all businesses to reopen. The county now has 461 confirmed cases as of Tuesday afternoon, according to Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health.
Kansas also surpassed 20,000 confirmed cases, according to data from KDHE. The state has 20,058 confirmed cases and 288 deaths reported, as of Monday.
KDHE Sec. Lee Norman shared during a media briefing through the University of Kansas Health System that there were 1,500 new coronavirus cases since Friday.
“Everything was within our grasp and we are fumbling it because of inattentiveness and politics,” Norman said, “and it’s just got to stop, otherwise we’re just going to see this continued rise.”
Nicole Asbury contributed reporting.