Over the past several weeks, we have been advising you of the many steps being taken to prepare the University of Georgia for the return of our faculty, staff, and students for in-person instruction this fall in as safe a manner as possible. We have asked for your patience and understanding as our planning has evolved over the course of the summer. The thoughtful plans that have been developed have been guided by a team of faculty health experts across campus disciplines.

Surveillance testing is a key component of the robust plan for our return to campus. Today, we are writing to inform you that we have accepted the plan for surveillance testing recommended by the Medical Oversight Task Force, comprised of the executive director of the University Health Center and the deans of the College of Public Health, Veterinary Medicine, and the AU/UGA Medical Partnership. In addition, Dr. Jesse Hostetter, executive director of the Vet Med Diagnostic Labs, played a crucial role.

The plan calls for 24,000 tests to be conducted by Thanksgiving at a rate of 300 tests per day on samples collected from volunteers among our faculty, staff, and students. The University is hiring five staff members (three medical professionals and two staff support) to administer the program, with specimen collection to be conducted at a convenient outdoor location. The University Health Center will conduct the sampling, with testing to be performed by the Veterinary Medicine Diagnostic Lab, which recently earned certification to process human samples. The University’s investment in this new measure alone is $1.2 million. The testing plan is explained in more detail in a separate memo following this document.

In addition, a project team from EITS is operationalizing the screening and notification tool recommended by the Medical Oversight Task Force, which we are calling DawgCheck. The tool consists of a Qualtrics form, to be available on the UGA app and website, which will prompt all faculty, staff, and students to perform a quick symptom check each weekday. While the symptom check is strongly encouraged, anyone with a positive test will be required to report the test in DawgCheck. Notification of a positive test by a student will alert the Student Care and Outreach team, whose members will reach out to help coordinate medical assistance, meal delivery, housing while in isolation, notification to professors, and other assistance. An automatic notification also will be sent to Facilities Management to signal the need for disinfection of specific areas. Finally—and very importantly—those reporting will be asked to recall their contacts, and this information will be shared safely and securely with the Georgia Department of Public Health to help facilitate contact tracing.

Together, these new measures—added to the protocols for social distancing, use of face coverings, and intensified cleaning measures—will help to promote the health and safety of our campus community. More details on these programs will be shared in the remaining weeks before the start of Fall Semester. Remember that Phase 3 of our return, when all faculty and staff return to campus unless they have been approved for telework, will begin on August 10.

Thank you for your continued support and flexibility.

UGA Faculty, Staff, and Students

UGA COVID-19 Medical Oversight Task Force:

  • Dr. Garth Russo, Executive Director of the University Health Center
  • Dr. Marsha Davis, Dean of the College of Public Health
  • Dr. Lisa Nolan, Dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine
  • Dr. Shelley Nuss, Campus Dean of the AU/UGA Medical Partnership

Dr. Jesse Hostetter, Executive Director of Athens and Tifton Diagnostic Laboratories

Plan for Testing, Screening, Surveillance, and Notification

July 22, 2020

As the University of Georgia continues to work diligently to prepare for the return to campus in August, we wanted to provide a comprehensive update of the University’s testing plans to keep UGA students, faculty, and staff as safe as possible from COVID-19.

The University’s Return to Campus plan emphasizes the importance of physical distancing, wearing face coverings, practicing good hygiene, enhanced cleaning and disinfection practices, self-screening, notifying contacts through DawgCheck, and testing for COVID-19 among members of the UGA community.

Through the University Health Center (UHC) and the College of Veterinary Medicine Athens Veterinary Diagnostic Lab, UGA aims to test approximately 24,000 faculty, staff, and students beginning August 10 through Thanksgiving break. One of the important characteristics of COVID-19 is that it can infect individuals who remain asymptomatic, but who may spread the virus to others. Our surveillance testing program is designed to help us identify these individuals so that they can be quickly isolated and their close contacts notified. As a result, fewer individuals will be exposed to the virus.

Our testing of asymptomatic individuals is designed to be a surveillance program only, although each participant will receive their individual results. The surveillance testing program is not to be used by individuals who are experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19. Symptomatic students can receive testing at UHC but must call ahead to book appointments (706-542-1162). Symptomatic faculty and staff should contact their primary care physician for further guidance and testing locations. All students, faculty, and staff are asked to use DawgCheck on a daily basis as we all work together to protect our community.

Testing asymptomatic members of the campus community will be voluntary and at no cost to participants. We will seek participation of students from residence halls, off-campus apartment complexes, fraternities, and sororities. We also will ask for faculty and staff volunteers, who self-identify as being at a higher risk for COVID-19, to be tested. As we gain understanding of the patterns of infection on our campus, we may reach out to other groups for testing. A subset of participants will be invited for testing every two weeks to monitor and detect changes in infection patterns.

We also are in the process of establishing a website to allow individuals to schedule an appointment in advance. We will conduct testing in a pop-up clinic in a location on campus convenient for students, faculty, and staff. UGA will use the most effective test for detecting the presence of the virus, the reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction test, or RT-PCR test. This test detects the virus in respiratory specimens collected by a nasopharyngeal swab. Specimens will be sent to the Athens Veterinary Diagnostic Lab, which has recently obtained certification for human COVID-19 specimen analysis and can process 300 tests per day.

Test results, available in 48 – 72 hours, will be delivered privately to each participant and, as required by law, to the Georgia Department of Public Health. Participants who test positive must use DawgCheck to communicate their results and should identify the places they have been on the UGA campus as well as provide information on campus individuals with whom they have been in contact.

Students who test positive will be given a medical plan to follow from UHC and will be asked to isolate. Employees who test positive will be directed to reach out to their primary care physician and not come to campus. Participants will be instructed to follow CDC Guidelines, which recommend that isolation be maintained for at least 10 days after onset of COVID-19 symptoms and at least 1 day (24 hours) following resolution of fever in the absence of fever-reducing medication. In the case of asymptomatic individuals, isolation may be discontinued at 10 days following the date of the initial positive RT-PCR test for SARS-CoV-2 RNA.