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OSU adapts COVID-19 testing of students and employees as holidays near

By Steve Lundeberg

CORVALLIS, Ore. – TRACE OSU, Oregon State University’s weekly COVID-19 prevalence testing of students and employees, is adjusting to serve thousands of OSU students who may travel over the Thanksgiving holiday.

All OSU students living in the Corvallis, Bend and Newport areas are invited to be tested beginning Monday, Nov. 16, through Thursday, Nov. 19, and do not need to be enrolled in TRACE OSU to participate. Testing results are expected to be available to students within 72 hours and by Tuesday, Nov. 24, at the latest.

“The expanded testing occurs at an important time as people travel and gather for the holidays, and as cases of COVID-19 are spiking in Oregon and across the nation,” said Steve Clark, vice president for university relations and marketing at OSU.

“Small household gatherings are contributing to a rise in the number of reported COVID-19 cases,” said Clark. “We ask that OSU students, faculty and staff contribute to their own health and a healthier community by participating in TRACE OSU testing, following OSU’s physical distancing policy and observing Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for family and small social gatherings.

TRACE OSU launched Sept. 28 and includes weekly random prevalence testing of approximately 1,000 OSU community members. The testing helps to determine the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, in the OSU community. Data collected informs planning and response by university leaders and county health officials.

Being tested is voluntary but encouraged by the university. 

As TRACE OSU focuses on testing students next week, no routine prevalence testing will be conducted for faculty and staff. During the week of Thanksgiving, no TRACE OSU testing is planned, but a small team will be available in case a need arises for TRACE’s Rapid Response testing.

For the week of Nov. 30, all university faculty and staff in the Corvallis, Bend and Newport communities who are enrolled in TRACE OSU are invited to be tested, with results expected within 72 hours. Faculty and staff can still enroll in time to be eligible for testing the week of Nov. 30. During that week, routine prevalence testing will not be conducted.

Regular prevalence testing of selected TRACE OSU enrollees will resume the week of Dec. 7, with no testing taking place the rest of December.

Each week during fall term, TRACE OSU has invited a representative group of students, faculty and staff, selected at random from the registration pool, to be tested. Two testing locations are available on the Corvallis campus: Reser Stadium and the Community Plaza between Johnson Hall and the Kelley Engineering Center. There are also two testing locations at the Hatfield Marine Science Center and one at OSU-Cascades in Bend.

Under the guidance of TRACE staff, participants provide a self-administered nasal swab to be analyzed with an FDA-approved test. The tests used in TRACE-COVID-19 collect material from the entrance of the nose and are more comfortable and less invasive than the tests that collect secretions from the throat and the back of the nose.

The time from check-in at the testing stations to departure is typically 10 minutes or less, said Ben Dalziel, a population biologist in the Department of Integrative Biology and project leader of TRACE-COVID-19. Participants are sent their results by secure email. Everyone’s personal information is safeguarded and not shared with anyone other than appropriate public health officials.