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University of Michigan steps up COVID-19 testing to 3,000 weekly tests with new program

Credit: Michigan Photography
Credit: Michigan Photography

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – The University of Michigan is ramping up its coronavirus (COVID-19) testing with plans to reach 3,000 weekly tests by the end of September.

Students, faculty and staff at the Ann Arbor campus can receive tests as part of the voluntary, free and opt-in surveillance U-M COVID-19 Community Sampling and Tracking Program.

The program will help monitor asymptomatic spread of the virus and may identify possible outbreaks. It is open to students living on or off-campus, and to faculty and staff who work in-person on campus, including individuals at Michigan Medicine, according to the U-M.

Testing will be done from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Mondays through Fridays from Sept. 9 through Nov. 20 at Palmer Commons at 100 Washtenaw Ave.

“The community sampling and tracking program will provide U-M public health experts with early warning signs and an opportunity to identify groups in our community in need of targeted support to slow COVID-19 transmission,” said University of Michigan associate professor and epidemiologist Emily Martin, in a news release.

Martin is guiding development for the Community Sampling and Tracking Program.

“The program monitors levels of COVID-19 in the community to identify increases in undetected transmission among asymptomatic individuals that normally would not be tested for clinical care,” she said.

Related: University of Michigan to carry out phase 3 of COVID-19 vaccine trial

According to the U-M, about 3,000 participants who are signed up for the Community Sampling and Tracking program will be selected and invited to test with a self-collected nasal swab.

Tests will be processed by U-M’s Michigan Medicine and participant results will be available on MyUofMHealth online portal.

U-M community members with COVID-19 symptoms or individuals in close contact with someone with a positive COVID-19 test will not be tested.

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According to the release, the U-M has a goal to test 5 percent of its student and on-campus population every week, with the possibility of increased testing when needed.

The program is part of the university’s testing and monitoring efforts, including testing 6,000 students prior to their return to campus, daily symptom tracking with the ResponsiBLUE health screening tool, testing symptomatic U-M community members, exposure testing and antibody testing for Michigan Medicine employees involved in patient care.

Students, staff and faculty who have previously been diagnosed with COVID-19 should not enroll in the U-M COVID-19 Community Sampling and Tracking Program.

U-M Public Health researchers are also studying sewage and air samples to look for the presence of COVID-19 in the campus environment and its relationship within university community infection rates.

Prior to their return to campus, U-M students were told to have a period of “enhanced social distancing” before returning to campus and were asked to test themselves for COVID-19.

The university also created a COVID-19 dashboard that provides updates regarding cases of COVID-19 on the Ann Arbor campus. Data about the number of tests and cases since March 8 is included, as well as information about positivity rates, isolation numbers and state or regional trends.

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