EAST LANSING, Mich. (WLNS)– As Spartans prepare for fall break, Michigan State University is offering free, saliva-based departure screening and testing through Nov. 22 for on- and off-campus students, as well as faculty and staff.
While the testing is voluntary, MSU strongly encourages students, faculty, and staff who are traveling to sign up on the program registration link.
The ‘Spartan Spit Kit’ has been available for students since September, but Jack Lipton, Director of the university’s COVID-19 Early Detection program said it’s changed a bit in advance of the holidays.
“The thanksgiving program is slightly different so we’ve set these up very specifically so that when people depart from East Lansing that they can pick a very specific day based upon when they’re leaving to have that departure sample so that they can get their results and feel safe going home,” Lipton said.
A total of 7,000 people took part in the screening program in since it began and Lipton said so far, more than 3,500 individuals have signed up to take advantage of the departure screening.
“Students need to get tested because based upon our data from the fall, we found that when we looked at everyone in our community about 98 percent of the transmission was occurring in undergraduates of the university, so they’re at the highest risk for transmission,” Lipton said.
He added, while college-age individuals might be at a lower risk in terms of health complications as a result of COVID-19, research shows they do tend to be at a higher risk to get the virus and transmit it further within the community.
“The idea here is— let’s take those who are at the highest risk of transmission and offer them this ability to understand what their status is so that they are not going and transmitting this to people who are even more susceptible,” Lipton said.
Because this specific testing is being done in an academic lab, under federal regulations the university can’t tell a person if their test is positive, but they are required to recommend the student goes to get a clinical diagnostic test.
Lipton said the program is will be entering a new phase between now and January, which will put it under the regulation of clinical diagnostic laboratory. That will allow the lab to be able to offer a COVID-19 test similar to what you’d get in a doctor’s office and actually be able to report results right to the patient.
He also added, when people come back to campus the university plans to have mandatory testing for all students that are living in the dorms or taking in-person classes. It will be voluntary for all other students.
More information about the saliva test can be found here.