LEWISBURG, W.Va. – The West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine (WVSOM) has resumed and will continue COVID-19 surveillance testing of its students and employees on the Lewisburg, W.Va., campus throughout the winter and spring.
Surveillance testing is required by all higher education institutions in accordance with the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, a mandate by W.Va. Gov. Jim Justice and WVSOM’s policies and procedures. Surveillance testing helps health and government officials track the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Surveillance testing of first- and second-year medical students began the week of Jan. 4, when they were expected back in Lewisburg after the winter break to isolate for two weeks before returning to on-campus activities. Testing of WVSOM employees resumed Jan. 12.
Testing is conducted through COVID-19 diagnostic tests in which an individual provides a saliva sample that is sent to a testing service. Results are returned via email, and in positive cases WVSOM administrators determine whether additional testing should occur, coordinate contact tracing with the Greenbrier County Health Department, and determine whether steps such as cleaning or shutting down areas of campus are necessary.
Leslie Bicksler, WVSOM’s vice president of human resources, is coordinating employee testing schedules, and the school’s Office of Preclinical Education is coordinating the testing of students. Bicksler said the surveillance testing program has helped identify asymptomatic individuals who tested positive for COVID-19. Testing also ensures that WVSOM remains proactive in keeping the school and local community safe.
“Ever since the pandemic began we have worked hard to keep the WVSOM campus safe and our students and employees healthy. We certainly do not want to jeopardize those efforts, which is why it is important to continue surveillance testing,” Bicksler said. “This pandemic has been long and tiring, but remaining vigilant in our attempts to combat the virus is an important step to ensure everyone’s safety.”
The saliva tests are the only tests authorized by the Food and Drug Administration for self-collection in the U.S., and their accuracy is comparable to nasal swab tests. The saliva tests check for the current presence of the virus.
All members of the WVSOM community are scheduled to be tested through the surveillance program except those deemed to have a valid reason for opting out, such as a disability or current illness, being under quarantine by a provider or public health official, having tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 90 days or being tested at an alternative facility and sharing the results with WVSOM.
WVSOM continues to implement additional efforts to minimize the spread of COVID-19, including measures such as suspending business travel, limiting access to campus, following social distancing and hygiene guidelines on campus and wearing masks.