University testing strategy and protocols

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Colorado State University wants to maintain a thriving environment where are students, staff, and faculty can learn and work as we all navigate COVID-19 together. One of the best strategies we have for keeping our community healthy is identifying those who have COVID-19 and helping them take action to prevent the spread to others.

CSU is:

  • Conducting ongoing saliva screening and follow up nasal swab testing of students, faculty and staff
  • Updating daily cases on the dashboard
  • Testing wastewater to detect virus
  • Contact tracing cases confirmed through nasal swab tests administered at CSU, pharmacies, physicians, etc.
  • Tracking concerns of and testing students, faculty and staff who report symptoms

Saliva screening and nasal swab testing

The university has a COVID-19 screening process. This process allows CSU to screen many students, faculty and staff to more precisely identify those who need a confirmatory nasal swab test.

Both the saliva screening and nasal swab tests are free when administered by the university.

Saliva screening may be mandatory or voluntary, depending upon circumstances. Nasal swab tests that flagged by saliva screenings are mandatory.

Seeking a COVID-19 test?

If you have not received an invitation to screen for COVID-19 from the CSU Pandemic Preparedness Team or COVID-19 Testing Team, you should consider getting a test at a non-CSU site.

Saliva Screening

The first step of this process is a saliva screening.

If your screening does not indicate the presence of the virus that causes COVID-19, you have a “green light” to continue to go to class, work and engage in other activities, always following public health guidance.

After submitting your saliva sample, you may go to class or work as normally scheduled; continue to take public health precautions including wearing a mask and physically distancing.

You’ll be notified of the outcome of your saliva screening within 24-48 hours.

Those who need a follow up test will be required to take the second step, which is a nasal swab test.

  • If you do not need a nasal swab test, you will receive an email. 
  • If you do need a nasal swab test, you will receive an email and phone call.

Testing Hold

During the time you are on a testing hold (a “yellow light”) while awaiting the nasal swab test and those results:

    • Do not go to work or classes
    • Separate yourself from others
    • Avoid leaving your home or residence hall room, other than to get tested. If you live in university housing, you will be transferred to a separate, single occupancy room while you wait to take your nasal swab test and until you receive your results
    • Wear a mask and maintain strict physical distancing standards and make every effort not to further expose others, including friends, roommates, and family members.

Nasal Swab Test

An indication from a saliva screening that a nasal swab test is needed signals that an individual may have COVID-19, but a nasal swab test is required to determine their status.

Nasal swab tests are mandatory when required due to saliva screening. See university policy.

If you need a nasal swab, you will be contacted by a public health official by email and phone, and you will receive additional instructions and guidance.

If you are notified that you need a nasal swab test, per university policy you are required to adhere to a “testing hold” until you receive the test and the results.

  • If your nasal swab result is negative, you are released from the testing hold and you have a “green light” to resume going to work or classes.
  • If your result is positive, you have a “red light” and you must follow public health requirements to isolate.

Per university policy, the university may mandate any student, faculty or staff member get a nasal swab test. Individuals may opt out only for medical or religious reasons. Even in those instances they must document that they are refusing to get a test and may be required to quarantine if they refuse to get tested.

Employees may request emergency paid sick leave for the 24-hour wait period between the saliva test and the follow up nasal swab test, as allowed by the CARES act.

If you are concerned that you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 or if you have symptoms, please notify the CSU Public Health office immediately.

Wastewater sample testing

The university is collecting wastewater at multiple locations across our campuses. These locations are tied to specific residence halls, academic and workplace buildings. If COVID-19 is detected in wastewater associated with a specific building, all students who live in that building or individuals who work in that building may be mandated to test.

  • Wastewater sampling at 17 locations on Main Campus may necessitate group testing. Wastewater serves as an early sign of infection. Monitoring wastewater for COVID-19 infection provides an opportunity for intervention before it has a chance to spread. When wastewater tests indicate that the virus may be present in a particular location, the university requires tests of individuals who live or work at those locations to prevent spread of COVID-19.
  • Testing dates are specific for these groups.
  • If you are contacted to submit a saliva screening sample due to wastewater sampling, CSU will communicate with you about your specific screening dates. You have that amount of time to get tested at CSU. If you are unable to get tested on the specific dates because of extenuating circumstances, please contact the Pandemic Preparedness Team and they will work with you.