The University of Virginia will provide COVID-19 testing for its asymptomatic employees, officials said this week.
According to a news release, voluntary asymptomatic testing will be offered on a limited, first-come, first-served basis and is not mandatory.
UVa is offering self-administered test kits to asymptomatic faculty and staff in its academic division, and to contracted workers. UVa Medical Center and University Physicians Group employees will be able to register for asymptomatic testing appointments at a satellite UVa Health COVID-19 testing site.
“Testing for COVID-19 is part of our broader approach to promote the health and safety of our community,” Dr. Mitch Rosner, the chair of the Department of Medicine who is involved in planning UVa’s COVID-19 response, said in a statement. “We recognize that there are many reasons why a person may want or need testing, and thus we have developed pathways for asymptomatic people to get checked for COVID-19.”
Full-time, benefits-eligible faculty and staff, including those working in the schools of Medicine and Nursing, who are working on Grounds may order a free self-administered COVID-19 test from Let’s Get Checked, the same vendor that is managing COVID-19 testing for returning students.
The university has said that staff should not request a test if they are not currently working on Grounds or do not plan to work on Grounds this fall. Once the weekly allocation of kits is reached, orders will not be accepted until additional kits are made available the following week.
A UVa spokesman said that no additional Let’s Get Checked coronavirus tests have been purchased beyond the 27,000 test that were purchased to use before and during the school year.
Employees with Aramark, BMS, Bright Horizons, Crothall, Exela, KinderCare, Morrison/Compass, RMC and Towne Park were notified by those companies about how they can schedule an on-Grounds pick-up of a free Let’s Get Checked test kit.
Medical Center team members, School of Medicine faculty with clinical privileges, residents, fellows and University Physicians Group team members will be able to register for free asymptomatic testing appointments at a UVa Health satellite testing clinic at the Student Activities Building. Appointments are required and are limited to 50 per day.
Tests will be processed by the UVa Health Medical Labs and results will be available in 24 to 48 hours.
After a Daily Progress article about supply chain issues allowing UVa to run about 750 tests per day, UVa said labs are currently running only 300 to 400 tests per day, but currently have a capacity to run about 750.
“We feel confident that we have, right now, the capacity to absorb several hundred more tests per day,” said Dr. Christopher Moskaluk, the chair of the UVa Department of Pathology and physician lead of the Pathology & Medical Laboratory Service Line.
UVa is supposed to get another instrument in the coming weeks that would be able to be used by the end of the month, he said, and is actively recruiting and hiring lab positions.
“In the September time-frame is both that instrument and an increase in people that will help us get our capacity up to 1,500 [tests] and that’d be a really large increase in what we’re doing right now,” Moskaluk said. “So, again, I think we’d be able to handle if there’s a large increase in symptomatic people or an outbreak of COVID.”
UVa Health is testing symptomatic patients at its clinics and emergency room, running community testing events, testing during some local outbreaks and testing for the athletic departments at UVa and at James Madison University.
Moskaluck said that UVa is “not the only game in town” doing testing — the Thomas Jefferson Health District is also offering testing, as are other doctors and clinics.
The University is the largest employer in the Metropolitan Statistical Area, which covers Albemarle, Fluvanna, Greene and Nelson counties and the city of Charlottesville, according to the Virginia Employment Commission. The UVa Physicians Group is the fourth largest employer.
He said that the university is working to preorder enough tests to have about a month’s supply, or about 40,000 tests, on hand.
When asked why the university isn’t doing more testing, Moskaluck said it’s following Centers for Disease Control guidelines and focusing on symptomatic people.
“We obviously don’t have enough tests to test everybody in the Charlottesville/Albemarle community whenever they wanted,” he said. “Even if we did something like that, we would just add to the national shortage of supply, so we’re trying to be good stewards. And in part, we are actually going to be ramping up the number of people that are being tested in UVa Medical labs because as the students come in, we expect that there is going to be an uptick in the requirement to test asymptomatic people, either by contact tracing or a general surveillance strategy.”