As thousands of students return to Bloomington this fall, those living both on and off campus are required to be tested for COVID-19. IU University Events, which oversees events such as commencement and freshman induction, has led the testing for Bloomington’s campus.
Before classes start, approximately 13,000 nasal swab tests will be used on students living on campus and 29,000 saliva tests for those living off campus, said Doug Booher, executive director of University Events, in an email.
“Along with physical distancing, wearing masks and frequent handwashing, it will help keep the campus as healthy as possible,” Booher said.
The nasal swabs are antigen tests from Becton, Dickinson and Company that provide results in less than 30 minutes, whereas the saliva tests are PCR tests from Vault Health and provide results in 3-5 days.
While the nasal swab tests are faster, they only detect specific proteins on the virus’s surface, so a negative result doesn’t rule out an infection.
“This test was identified as the preferred option for our residential students because it could help expedite the move-in process,” Booher said.
The saliva tests, which detect the virus’s genetic makeup, were chosen for off-campus students due to the number of tests that can be administered quickly, Booher said.
These tests are costing IU millions of dollars, but the university won’t be adding extra fees to cover the costs, Booher said.
More than 120 people are working to help administer the tests, Booher said. Personal protective equipment is provided for all volunteers, as well as training that takes place the day of. One employee is senior Sarah Liao, who is an employee with University Events.
“Typically what we do is work with IU Athletics and sporting events, but obviously, because coronavirus hit, we aren’t doing that this fall,” Liao said. “It’s part of our job to help with COVID testing.”
Bailee Leathers, a senior at IU’s School of Nursing, said her clinical professors sent an email saying that if nursing students volunteered to help administer tests, they could earn community clinical hours for their research classes.
She said students from the School of Public Health are also volunteering, which has helped make the testing process run smoothly.
“I’m very impressed with all the organizations that were involved to make this come together,” Leathers said.