COVID-19 Update: Thanksgiving Testing, New Rapid Tests & More
Nov. 9, 2020
Dear Saint Louis University community,
Our thanks to all of SLU students who participated in our survey gauging interest in testing prior to Thanksgiving break. Your feedback has helped direct us. In fact, many more of you expressed a desire to be tested than we had expected.
Our campus infection rate is very low
Even with our recent increase in cases, our campus positivity rate remains significantly lower than the positivity rate in the greater St Louis region, Missouri, and almost all U.S. states.
The vast majority of our students who have tested positive had exhibited COVID-19 symptoms or had a known exposure to an infected person. If you are asymptomatic and have not had a known exposure — meaning, you are being vigilant about face mask wearing and social distancing — your risk of having COVID-19 now is extremely low.
Students can get pre-Thanksgiving COVID testing
We will offer optional COVID-19 testing on campus prior to Thanksgiving break, prioritizing those students who are returning home to at-risk loved ones. We also will prioritize those who must be tested due to travel requirements or restrictions in their home state or country.
Again, a negative test is not a free pass to disregard the Campus Commitment and our public health protocols. A negative COVID-19 test is a single snapshot in time and is not representative of the hours and days that follow. You must wear your face mask. You must practice social distancing.
Pre-Thanksgiving break testing details
Here are the current details for those students who wish to be tested before returning home for Thanksgiving break:
- We will test about 600 students total on Friday, Nov. 20 and Monday, Nov. 23. After weeks of working on the logistics of this matter, we found that 600 is the maximum number of tests we have the capacity to administer. Of course, at any time you wish, you can be tested at any of the testing centers in this region or at home.
- The test will cost $40 per student. The cost will be added to the student’s account. Pell-eligible students will be provided a grant to cover the cost. The fee is about half of what the University is charged per test.
- Registration will be first-come, first-served, following priority circumstances. If spots are still available, testing will be opened to all students. We will send a registration link and additional details next week.
- There is a small chance we will provide COVID-19 tests on Saturday, Nov. 21, and Sunday, Nov. 22.
- You will receive your results roughly 48-72 hours after your test.
The meaning of a COVID-19 test result
Before being tested for COVID-19, it’s important that to know what test results mean:
- Positive result:
- You will be required to isolate alone for at least 10 days and/or until you are cleared by the local public health department.
- If you currently live on campus, you can choose to isolate at home or on campus. Regardless of whether you live on or off campus, you will not be allowed to travel by bus, train, plane or rideshare service if you test positive for COVID-19 until you are cleared from isolation.
- All of your close contacts will be required to quarantine for 14 days. They, too, will be prohibited from traveling by bus, train, plane or rideshare service.
- Negative result:
- A negative test is only a snapshot in time. Do not get a false sense of security about your status.
- It’s possible to become infected at any time after your negative test was conducted — especially if you let your guard down.
- A negative test result does not ensure that you are not contagious.
- You can test negative one day and positive the next.
- It’s critical that you wear a face mask, keep socially distant from others, and frequently wash or sanitize your hands, even after you test negative — especially if you are returning to a household with a loved one whose health circumstances put them at risk of real harm were they to be infected with COVID-19.
Other COVID-19 testing locations
There are numerous locations for students, faculty and staff who are not presenting COVID-19 symptoms to be tested for infection. You can find the list of available testing sites on the City's Health Department website.
Students may also wish to be tested in their local community after they return home, closer to the holiday. Check your local public health department’s website for information about testing sites in your region.
There are also direct-to-consumer or at-home test kits that you may obtain:
- Everlywell: https://www.everlywell.com/products/covid-19-test/
- LetsGetChecked: https://www.letsgetchecked.com/us/en/home-coronavirus-test/
- Picture by Fulgent Genetics: https://picturegenetics.com/covid19
- Pixel by LabCorp: https://www.pixel.labcorp.com/covid-19
- Vitagene : https://vitagene.com/products/covid-19-saliva-test-kit/
- P23 Labs: https://p23labs.com/
- Vault: https://www.vaulthealth.com/covid
- hims & hers: https://www.forhims.com/covid-test
Thanksgiving break COVID-19-prevention plans
If you plan to return to a household with an at-risk family member or friend, it’s essential that you plan ahead to minimize your risk of exposure and illness between now and the Thanksgiving and winter breaks.
This doesn’t have to be a formal quarantine, but you should be extra vigilant to reduce the likelihood that you will take COVID-19 home with you. This means:
- No meals with face masks off for longer for 15 minutes.
- No car rides with others without face masks.
- No social gatherings that involve being closer than 6 feet to others without wearing a face mask.
It’s important to remember that, if you’ve mostly been living on campus, even your immediate family members may not be in your current “bubble,” so even a Thanksgiving meal among your immediate family requires continued caution. Some students may opt to depart campus earlier than Nov. 24 to allow themselves quarantine time at home prior to Thanksgiving dinner.
Other general Thanksgiving and travel recommendations:
- Consider quarantining for the first 14 days after you arrive home. This protects your household members in case you are infected; it also protects you if they are infected
- If quarantine is not possible, stay physically distant from family household members, wear a face mask, and avoid hugging, shaking hands and other physical contact, for the first 14 days home.
- If you plan to be on campus over winter break, it’s best to participate in a virtual Thanksgiving this year.
- If you plan to travel for Thanksgiving, get your flu vaccine now if you haven’t already. It takes about two weeks to develop immunity after vaccination. If you get vaccinated now, you should be immune by Thanksgiving.
- Minimize stops during travel and delay travel plans if you’re feeling sick.
- If you are taking public transportation, make sure to wear your face mask the entire time, stay at least six feet away from others, and use hand sanitizer frequently during your travel.
- Car transportation is the most protective option. If you are in a vehicle with someone else, wear your face mask and sit in the back seat. If weather permits, open the car windows.
- Avoid large crowds, including large holiday gatherings with guests.
If you develop symptoms
Using the #CampusClear app is an easy way to monitor the onset of potential COVID symptoms every day. Remember, the symptoms of COVID-19 and regular flu are similar.
If you develop symptoms or believe that you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, you must call Student Health right away at 314-977-2323. You may not “self-isolate” in your regular on-campus residence while awaiting test results. Compliance with this expectation is a part of the Campus Commitment.
New rapid test coming soon
The State of Missouri is providing a new rapid test for COVID-19 to the Student Health Center. It should be available in the next week or so.
Like the current rapid test at Student Health, this new test is available only for symptomatic students. The new rapid test is not effective at detecting COVID-19 among those who are asymptomatic. If you are asymptomatic and want to be tested, please use one of the resources listed above.
Please stay safe and healthy.
Terri Rebmann, Ph.D., RN, CIC, FAPIC
Special Assistant to the President
Director, Institute for Biosecurity
Professor, Department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics
College for Public Health & Social Justice