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A sign points students and faculty to the tennis court building on South Green in Athens, Ohio, as part of the weekly and biweekly testing to combat the spread of COVID-19.

Ohio University partners with Vault Health for widespread COVID-19 testing

Ohio University partnered with Vault Health this semester to provide university-wide, asymptomatic COVID-19 testing for students on all campuses. The university will also continue to partner with CVS Health for wide net testing, which will provide testing to students who were in contact with people who have tested positive. 

Vault Health will conduct a saliva-based polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, test for students at the university. This type of test is more accurate than the nasal swab testing as saliva-based PCR tests produce an inconclusive result less than 1% of the time.

“There is growing data that support the test being more sensitive for the presence of SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) in saliva samples,” Jason Feldman, Vault Health founder and CEO, said in an email. “Further, false positive rates for saliva-based testing are currently in the 1-2% range, which is significantly lower than the false negative rates among nasopharyngeal swab-based tests, which can be as high as the 25-35% range.”

Not only are these tests more accurate, they are more cost-effective for the university and allow for both on-campus testing in Athens, and at-home testing. On other campuses, COVID-19 rates have gone down because of at-home testing. 

“Once testing was launched on campus, the positivity rate came down versus when students first arrived on campus,” Feldman said in an email. 

Vault Health testing allows for the university to track the virus incidence more closely and to identify and isolate positive individuals.

“Testing asymptomatic individuals helps us to understand whether virus incidence is decreasing or increasing among our campus communities, providing information about infection rates and trends,” Special Assistant to the president for Public Health Operations, Gillian Ice, said in an email. 

Students also reported that the nasal swab testing is uncomfortable and invasive. While the saliva tests were non-invasive, they took more work for the student to conduct. 

“I preferred the spit test in the end, although it’s more inconvenient,” Devra Roberts, a senior studying environmental and plant biology, wrote in a message. “I had to fill a test tube with saliva, which was more work than expected, but it didn’t cause the same discomfort as the nasal swab.”

However, CVS results take about 15 minutes to get back to students while Vault Health results take 48-72 hours. Because the CVS testing is faster to conduct, Ohio University is continuing to partner with them to conduct wide net testing. CVS’s rapid result testing uses Abbott ID NOW, a rapid molecular, self-administered swab test.

“We are using CVS rapid-result testing for our wide net testing, which allows us to quickly test those in near contact with people who have tested positive, allowing us to intervene in outbreaks early,” Ice said in an email. 

Students in residential housing are required to take a weekly COVID-19 test through Vault Health and students in off-campus housing are tested by Vault Health bi-weekly. Vault testing is located at the Ohio University Golf and Tennis Center. 

“If they miss their testing window, they will be sent a message that tells them to test immediately,” Ice said in an email. “If they fail to attend a second test, they will be restricted from access to campus until they complete a test. If they miss a third test, they will be referred to community standards.”

Students signed a HIPAA disclosure form that allows for their results to be shared by the university. Ohio University has a reporting dashboard where information is compiled that allows the university to look at its testing program as a whole. 

If a student tests positive, however, they also need to report it to the university. Reporting a positive test includes answering a call from the OU COVID-19 Hotline when a representative calls to discuss your test results, and submitting a OU COVID-19 Incident Report. If the student lives in the residence halls, they must also contact their RA to inform them they have tested positive.  

Once these steps are completed a COVID Campus Liaison, or CCL, will call the student for contact tracing and help the student with their next steps.

“Prepare for a call from an OHIO COVID Campus Liaison, who will ask you for a list of anyone you have been in close contact with in the 48 hours prior to testing,” according to the COVID-19 testing webpage. “Your assigned CCL also will help you arrange for any resources you need to successfully isolate. All OHIO students, faculty and staff are expected to use these resources.”


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