Pre-campus arrival COVID testing: mandatory for students, not required for faculty and staff


Sarah Michels

All UK students will be required to complete a COVID test before attending in-person classes, according to a Tuesday campus-wide email. 

In the email, President Eli Capilouto stated that students who are returning to campus will be provided a free test at one of five campus sites, including both drive-through and walk-up testing options. 

However, faculty and staff are not under the same obligation. 

“Our START team – comprised of health professionals, clinicians and researchers – did not recommend mandatory testing for faculty and staff, but encouraged it as has been the guidance of state and federal officials throughout this process,” said UK spokesperson Jay Blanton in an email. 

This is partially due to the geographical differences between the student body, which is returning to UK from all 120 counties, 50 states and about 100 countries, and faculty and staff populations, who are mostly locally-based. 

“We need to establish a baseline for students, given that variation, and begin to socialize them around the expected health behaviors we need them to adopt on campus, which will include daily screening, contact tracing and utilization of health resources,” Blanton wrote.

 They have access to the same testing sites already through their health provider or other commercial sites in town.” 

He added that faculty and staff have access to the same sites through their health provider or other local sites. Those who are symptomatic will be offered UK’s testing just like students, he said, while those who are not, but still want a test, will need to look elsewhere. 

“Ultimately, the senior administration, led by President Capilouto, adopted the Playbook and the recommendations of our health professionals, clinicians and scientists,” Blanton wrote. 

UK’s Playbook for Reinvented Operations includes this testing guideline: 

“Additional viral testing should be encouraged and available for all faculty and staff, particularly among individuals in selected groups and prioritized areas where social distancing is more challenging (e.g. individuals with high-risk exposure including recent contact with an infected individual).”

Aaron Cramer, UK Senate faculty representative, said that faculty and staff were not included in the decision, for the most part.

“While parts of this plan were presented to different audiences previously, employees were not notified of the decision before the message this morning,” Cramer said. 

Students don’t need to worry about their health insurance or finding a local testing site. Instead, before they arrive on campus, they will receive a text message with a link to an online test scheduling portal.

They will be able to choose any time slot between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. from August 3 to August 22, as long as it isn’t more than seven days before students permanently return to campus. After scheduling, students must also register for the test, a separate process in which they will provide information including their name and student ID number. UK will release more details about this process soon. 

Each test will take about a minute, and students are encouraged to arrive ten minutes early to facilitate a speedy process. They should bring their student IDs (photo ID if they have not been issued one yet) and a consent form if they are a minor, which will be distributed shortly by UK.  

Wild Health, a Lexington-based company that is conducting and analyzing the tests, will have results available approximately 24 hours from the testing time. Those who test negative will receive a text message with a link to their negative results, while those who test positive for COVID will receive a phone call from a member of the UK Health Corps team with further instructions on CDC-mandated quarantine. 

Health information will remain private in compliance with HIPAA, according to Capilouto’s email, but UK and Wild Health are required to report positive cases to the Kentucky Department of Health. 

In addition to their current staff, UK said they are adding 15 members to their UK Health Corps team to serve as contact tracers and wellness coordinators during this fall semester. 

Capilouto asked for students, faculty and staff’s patience as more details of the restart plan are announced in the coming days and weeks. He said that UK vows to be flexible to changes in the plan as new information and situations arise. 

“Everything we do is guided by the principle of ensuring the health, safety and well-being of every member of the UK community,” Capilouto wrote. “With the expertise and tireless efforts of more than 500 community members, we have created a detailed and thoughtful restart playbook for our campus.”