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UVa will test students for COVID before holiday break

University of Virginia students living on and off Grounds will get a final COVID-19 test before they leave school to return home for the holidays and those who test positive will be asked to quarantine before leaving, officials announced Thursday.

Faculty, staff and employees will be given a chance to use a free self-test kit to check their condition prior to the holiday break.

“We are on track to end the fall semester in a good position related to COVID-19. This could change quickly, as we have seen with recent trends nationally,” Provost Liz Magill, Chief Operating Officer J.J. Davis and Department of Medicine Chairman Dr. Mitch Rosner said in a Thursday morning message to the UVa community.

“We strongly believe that robust pre-departure testing is a key to keeping us on the right track and helping make the Thanksgiving break as safe as possible for our university community, our neighbors, and our families,” they wrote.

According to the message, students living in on-Grounds dormitories will have their departure tests through the university’s ongoing and mandatory asymptomatic prevalence testing, which will continue through Nov. 20.

The number of saliva tests available for students has increased, allowing the university to also test students living in the community as well as those on Grounds. Information and appointments will be sent out early next week, officials said.

UVa health officials will also offer students additional tests prior to traveling at no cost to the student.

According to the message, full-time, benefits-eligible faculty and staff, including those working in the Schools of Medicine and Nursing, as well as non-employee postdoctoral fellows may order a free self-test kit from Let’s Get Checked. The kit will be shipped directly to them.

Part-time salary, wage and contract workers may request a free test kit by emailing university officials at returntogrounds@virginia.edu.

UVa Health employees received detailed information in an email from medical center and medical school officials regarding testing appointments.

Officials said they want students to remain in their home communities as much as possible and limit travel until the start of spring semester, which will run from Feb. 1 to May 6 without the traditional spring break.

“In an effort to minimize travel and possible transmission of the virus, we are asking students to return to their home communities until the start of the spring semester,” the message states. “Local health officials might have additional guidance or requirements for those returning and we encourage you to look into those potential requirements before departing Charlottesville.”

The administrators said students living in dorms who test positive will have access to existing UVa quarantine and isolation rooms. Those who live off Grounds should make plans for a place to quarantine, should their tests be positive.

“If you test positive for COVID-19 before you leave the Charlottesville-Albemarle area, you will need to follow our existing protocols on isolation and quarantine and participate in contact tracing efforts,” the administrators said. “We encourage all students to have a plan for where they would isolate or quarantine if that becomes necessary over the break.”

Testing negative for COVID-19 may be a good thing, but it’s not a promise of not being positive, administrators warned.

“A negative test does not completely exclude the possibility of COVID-19. You can be exposed during travel or may have been exposed just prior to departure and in both cases the test would be negative,” the message states. “We recommend caution and monitoring yourself for symptoms. We also urge special caution for students returning home to a family member who is immune-compromised. If you develop any symptoms, we recommend testing for COVID-19 in your locality and isolation while awaiting the test result.”

Between Oct. 25 and Oct. 31, 12 UVa students out of 4,941 tested were positive for COVID-19, according to the UVa COVID-Tracker. That’s a positivity rate of less than 1%. Staff and employees had a positive test percentage of 2.5% as 13 of 507 tests came back positive.

The Thomas Jefferson Health District, which covers the city of Charlottesville and counties of Albemarle, Nelson, Louisa, Fluvanna and Greene, had 1.9% of tests come back positive in the past week, its records show.

Source: www.dailyprogress.com

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