On October 28th, the Graduate School, Graduate Student Senate, and Graduate Professional Council hosted a panel session for graduate and professional students titled "Covid 19 Testing, Surveillance, and Resources". Panelists were: Dr. Steve Lawrence, Dr. Cheri LeBLanc, and Rob Wild. A summary of frequently asked questions, Information and resources are listed below. You can click on the link below to watch the full webinar. If you are experiencing any symptoms, you should call the Covid Call Center, 314-362-5056 or Habif Health and Wellness 314-935-6666.

View Webinar

To view the webinar, please click below. Please note, the webinar was recorded on October 28, 2020, and things are constantly evolving:

view webinar

Testing

Why are graduate and undergraduate students separated out in entry testing but not in diagnostic testing on the dashboard?

This was due to the way the data were collected, however the University dashboard has been recently updated to now separate the positive student cases into graduate and undergraduate.

If a student tests positive but not through Wash U, will that be added to the dashboard?

Yes, that information is added to the dashboard. The St. Louis County and St. Louis City Health Departments notify the University of positive tests on University students.

If a student has mild symptoms, can they get a test?

Yes, even mild symptoms, if they are symptoms often associated with COVID-19, will generate a request to be tested.  We highly recommend that all students who develop any concerning symptoms please call Habif Health and Wellness Center at 314-935-6666 or the COVID call center at 314-362-5056.  The staff are highly trained to gather the correct information and follow protocols to ensure that everybody with a reasonable suspicion of COVID-19 is referred to testing, which can usually be performed the same day with results in 24-48 hours. 

If a student has a known exposure but is asymptomatic, could they get a test?

Yes, under certain circumstances.  Students who have a known exposure to a person with COVID-19 should call Habif Health and Wellness Center at 314-935-6666.  The staff will collect all the details of the possible exposure to determine if the caller would meet criteria to become a contact requiring quarantine.  Contacts may be asked to undergo diagnostic testing to more quickly identify secondary cases, however it is important to remember that a negative test in this situation does not alter the duration of quarantine that is necessary. 

How many positive cases have shown up from surveillance testing vs. diagnostic testing?

About half of the positive cases have come from surveillance testing and half from diagnostic testing. According to Dr. Lawrence, diagnostic testing is more important, as symptomatic people are more contagious and can lead to more cases.

Why aren’t graduate students included in surveillance testing?

Surveillance testing is being used on undergraduates because this population was deemed to be most likely to be the source of large clusters of infection.  Specifically, undergraduates are more likely to live communally, less likely to follow public health measures and (because of their younger age) more likely to be asymptomatic while infected. The purpose of this testing is solely to serve as an early warning sign of increased infection on campus. It has limited utility for an individual. The University is continuously monitoring the data to determine if this strategy needs to change.

Why were students on the Medical campus not given entry tests?

The medical campus has been communicating separately and regularly with its students regarding policies and testing.  The strategy for mitigation amongst medical students parallels the strategy used for other medical school personnel.    

How many tests has the University given?

The University does approximately 2700-3000 surveillance tests per week.  In addition, it does as many diagnostic tests as are needed for all students, faculty and staff across all campuses. This fluctuates greatly from day to day but has been markedly increasing in the last few weeks as cases have increased.

Why is the WashU policy not “if you want to be tested, you will be tested”? Is the expectation that the number of people who want to be tested would exceed WashU’s testing capacity?

The purpose of surveillance testing is for population health monitoring as an early detection system that would more rapidly identify an outbreak on campus.  The purpose of diagnostic testing is to rapidly determine if a person with symptoms has COVID-19.  People with symptoms are more likely to spread to others and it is critical that symptomatic cases are identified as quickly as possible.  There are some unintended negative consequences with performing more tests on asymptomatic individuals than are needed.  These include false positives that could lead to unnecessary isolation and quarantine of contacts, false negatives that could generate a false sense of security that could lead to less vigilance in strictly following masking, gathering and distancing, and diversion of limited resources (as has been seen on campus and in many other places), and most importantly, the need to ensure we have adequate testing capacity for those who are ill and those who are at greatest risk (people in nursing homes, people in jail or prison, healthcare workers and first responders, etc).

Why is the university testing undergrads without symptoms if we think this surveillance testing may lead to high risk behavior due to a false sense of safety?

After careful consideration of the overall risks and benefits within various populations, it was determined that surveillance testing benefits may exceed risks in undergraduates.  The University is actively monitoring the utility of this strategy and will make adjustments to either expand or contract surveillance testing in response to the data and pandemic conditions. 

What is the procedure for a confirmed contact?

When a person tests positive they become a case.  University staff interview every case to re-trace their steps and identify all people who were potentially exposed.  Those who are identified as having a high-risk exposure are considered contacts, who are then called to inform them they are considered a contact.  Once confirmed, the process of quarantine is initiated. This includes a set of instructions to the individual, a confirmation of living space and food delivery, and establishing a health monitoring plan with Habif Health and Wellness staff. A similar process is followed on the medical campus.

While undergraduates do live in communal living spaces, the same can be said of graduate students. With the opening of the rec center and the mixing of graduate students in class and lab spaces, does the university plan to introduce surveillance testing?

Surveillance testing is being used on undergraduates because this population was deemed to be most likely to be the source of large clusters of infection.  Specifically, undergraduates are more likely to live communally, less likely to follow public health measures and (because of their younger age) more likely to be asymptomatic while infected. The purpose of this testing is solely to serve as an early warning sign of increased infection on campus. It has limited utility for an individual. The University is continuously monitoring the data to determine if this strategy needs to change.

Why can't the University engage in both systematic surveillance testing and requested diagnostic testing?

The University is engaged in both systematic surveillance testing of populations deemed to be at highest risk of leading to epidemiologically-significant clusters of transmission and diagnostic testing for all students, staff and faculty who have symptoms concerning for COVID-19.  The symptom screening should be diligently and truthfully completed every day before arriving on campus.  If any symptom or exposure is elicited, the student should contact the Covid Call Center (314-362-5056) or Habif Health and Wellness (314-935-6666) immediately to assess the symptoms and subsequent need for testing. 

What is the data behind the risk for different populations? How was risk determined for each population?

The determination of the populations deemed to be at higher level risk for large clusters of infection was based on observations of outbreaks at other institutions that opened prior to WashU, and what is known about social and behavioral patterns in different cohorts based on age and how long they have lived independently away from parents.

Thanksgiving Holiday

How does the Thanksgiving policy impact graduate students?

Graduate students are exempt from the undergraduate policy regarding Thanksgiving travel.

Insurance Coverage

Will student health insurance cover COVID 19 testing beyond January 2021? If yes, when will students be notified?

We expect the student health insurance to cover COVID testing beyond January as it has consistently extended this time frame as the pandemic has dictated and seems to follow the national emergency period dates.  They initially had this provision through June, then October and now through January.  
https://www.uhc.com/health-and-wellness/health-topics/covid-19/coverage-...
Habif will notify students as soon as we hear from the insurance company and will reach out to them in December for an update.