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Loyola Unveils COVID-19 Testing Plan, Including the Use of Saliva-Based Testing

Zack Miller | The PhoenixIn a recent webinar, Loyola discussed its plan for testing students in the spring semester, including the use of saliva-based tests and isolation protocols.

Loyola students headed to campus this spring should expect a saliva-based COVID-19 test twice a week, among other measures, according to school officials. 

This announcement came during a Dec. 6 webinar where officials discussed testing and quarantine protocol ahead of a planned partial campus reopening. 

Joan Holden, director of Loyola’s Wellness Center and health safety officer, said the university is partnering with SHIELD Illinois. SHIELD Illinois is a testing and tracking program developed by the University of Illinois. It provides Loyola with a saliva-based test and infrastructure to implement a large-scale testing and tracking program. Holden said the school decided to use the saliva-based test because of cost and efficiency.

“The benefits of using this test are that it is less expensive, has a 24-hour turn-around time, enables us to provide scale in our testing capabilities, is easy to use, and it’s highly accurate,” Holden said in the webinar. 

These tests will be available at all three campuses. Testing on Lake Shore Campus will take place at the Sr. Jean Multipurpose Room, which is located on the second floor of the Damen Student Center, and in the Mundelein Auditorium, according to Loyola’s website. Currently it is unclear where testing will take place on Loyola’s Water Tower Campus or Loyola’s Health Sciences Campus.

Holden said the test can also identify COVID-19 in those who are asymptomatic, making mitigation easier. The tests used by SHIELD Illinois have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), according to a fact sheet provided by the University of Illinois. Holden said in an email they hope to have emergency authorization soon and that this does not diminish the accuracy of the tests. 

“We hope to have emergency use authorization in place by the beginning of the year,” Holden said “However, the test will still be conducted in labs through lab-developed testing. This does not diminish the accuracy of the test result.” 

SHIELD Illinois also provides a way for students to schedule appointments and see their test results through their My Shield Account. Information about setting up My Shield will be sent to students after they fill out a testing  consent form, according to Kana Henning, associate vice president of facilities and section leader for campus continuity. Emails about this will be sent near the start of the new year, Henning said. 

The university will still be offering free rapid antigen testing for students at the Wellness Center as well as free confirmatory PCR testing to those who need it, Holden said in an email to The Phoenix. 

Holden said the school won’t have to hire more staff to handle the increase in testing since Loyola has been testing students since August and had already hired temporary nursing staff. 

Undergraduate students living on campus will be asked to test at least twice a week, while graduate students and faculty will be asked to test once a week using the saliva-based test. If students, including those living off-campus, enter campus buildings for any reason, they will be instructed to fill out the consent form and get tested before they enter any building on campus.

“If you plan to come to campus less than once a week or only sporadically you should submit for testing upon arrival each time you visit campus,” Holden said. “Although results will not be available for 24 hours, positive cases will initiate contact tracing to determine any potential contacts you may have had while on-campus.”

Henning said students could see their access to campus buildings revoked for failing to follow testing guidelines. 

“In the event that we find someone is not testing but is still accessing campus we will follow up with you to remind you of the importance of our testing program and the need to test,” Henning said. “If you still do not comply with testing we will remove your ability to access campus buildings until you become compliant.”

Holden said this would be done by deactivating a student’s Loyola ID. She said once a student complies with testing, their ID will be reactivated.

Both Holden and Henning said students who live on campus won’t have access to their dorms rescinded under this policy. 

As for quarantine procedures, the webinar addressed both move-in quarantine and exposure quarantine. When students initially move in on campus, they will be required to quarantine for 14 days, The Phoenix reported. During this time, students will be allowed to leave their room to do laundry and pick up meals from the lobby, according to Holden.

If students have a known exposure to someone who is COVID positive, they will be placed in exposure quarantine. During this quarantine, students will only be allowed to leave their dorm room to receive medical care, and get tested according to Holden. This period will last 10 days with students getting tested between days five and nine.

Henning also discussed the specific accommodations for students in exposure quarantine. Students living in a unit with a private bathroom will be allowed to quarantine in place, while students with a shared bathroom will be moved into a quarantine hall. 

As for meals, Henning said students living in a dorm with a private kitchen will be given a meal kit for the duration of their quarantine and students without a kitchen will have three meals delivered every day. 

Henning confirmed during both move-in quarantine and exposure quarantine, students will not be allowed to leave their dorms to walk outside.

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