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COVID-19 Update: Additional Asymptomatic Testing at SLU

Sept. 10, 2020

Dear members of the Saint Louis University community, 

Starting next week, we will begin to conduct on-going testing of our students who are exhibiting no symptoms of COVID-19 infection. 

The full plan can be found here. A few key highlights from the plan are: 

We recognize that some members of our community have inquired about testing the entire student body, citing one published journal article, or another. Our experts believe differently. As our biostatisticians note, by selecting a random sample we can achieve the same results through the application of inferential statistics. In other words, there is little public health value in testing the entire populations when a properly drawn random sample is sufficient. Further, it would be detrimental to overall public health for us to conduct full population testing rather than a subset of the population, because this will preserve materials that are in short supply — materials that can be used to test more vulnerable populations. Additionally, such articles fail to consider the logistics required to pull off such a massive undertaking. 

In summary, our medical and public health experts firmly believe a random sample combined with a targeted cluster testing approach will allow us to accurately measure and track potential campus spread and to intervene accordingly. As they also recommend, our testing plans will remain fluid, based primarily on our testing results, as well as test availability, and local pandemic conditions. 

Please keep in mind that testing is but one of several tools necessary to prevent and minimize COVID-19 spread on our campus and in our city. No amount of testing will completely eliminate disease spread on campus or in our community. 

A word of caution about testing 

I want to offer some words of caution about testing. 

Some apparently believe that a negative test allows them to disregard recommended safety protocols. A COVID-19 test is a snapshot in time of your infection status. It does not mean that you haven’t been exposed and won’t become contagious at some point in the future, perhaps the very near future. 

Do not let a negative test result lull you into a false sense of security. A negative test result is not a free pass to be around others without wearing a facemask or spending extended time within 6 feet of others. This is particularly true if you recently learned that someone close to you has tested positive for COVID-19. This disease can take up to 14 days to incubate. 

Additionally, if you have been tested off campus, please let us know your results. We cannot help you if we do not know your situation. Many people have spent countless hours to make sure this semester is successful for each of us. Without knowing your results, we cannot form a full picture of community spread. 

Finally, if you believe you need to isolate or quarantine yourself, please consult with the Student Health Center (314-977-2323) or Employee Health (314-268-5499). 

In closing 

I want to close this message by once again commending you Billikens. We have made it one month into this fall semester together. 

Your behavior indicates that you are women and men for and with others. You are wearing a mask, keeping a safe distance, adhering to other public health guidance, and thus allowing us to do what we most want — the ability to live and learn together on campus. 

I am proud of you. And I am hopeful that we can this way of proceeding through the end of the term.  

Be well, 

Fred P. Pestello, Ph.D.