Why is the University requiring the COVID-19 return-to-campus screening program?
The return-to-campus screening program for asymptomatic individuals is being implemented after careful review of effective evidence-based strategies that mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus, support a continuation of in-person instruction, and keep the campus community as safe as possible. While a screening program cannot fully eliminate the risk of COVID-19 on our campus, the University has determined that the screening program will be a valuable tool for managing our campus response. This screening program is being implemented in addition to our other COVID-19 safety protocols, and it does not replace public health guidelines (face coverings, physical distancing, handwashing, etc.).
Who will be screened as part of the return-to-campus screening program?
All Idaho State faculty, staff, and students who will have a physical presence on campus during the Spring 2021 semester must undergo mandatory screening twice within a five-day period during the month of January. This includes students living in residence halls or who are enrolled in at least one in-person course. Students in hyflex, lab, studio, or clinical environments will also be screened. Faculty and staff who are 100% working remotely and will not have physical interaction with other members of the campus community do not need to be screened. The University will continue to encourage telework, where possible, during the spring semester.
What type of screening will be performed?
Two saliva-based PCR screens for COVID-19 will be performed approximately five days apart. PCR is non-invasive and the gold-standard diagnostic tool that can show if a person has an active COVID-19 infection. This screening program will be helpful in identifying asymptomatic cases within our campus community. There will be no cost to faculty, staff, and students.
When and where will the return-to-campus screening take place?
Prior to the start of the Spring 2021 semester, faculty, staff, and students will receive an email with a registration link to schedule a screening appointment. On-campus screening locations will be established in Pocatello, Idaho Falls, and Meridian. Other arrangements will be made for screening in Twin Falls and Anchorage, Alaska. You will set up an appointment and go to the assigned screening location at your scheduled time to provide a saliva sample. The entire process will take less than five minutes, and results are expected to be returned in 24-48 hours. After screening, you may immediately return to work or class and are expected to follow all existing COVID-19 precautions. You do not need to receive a negative result before continuing your on-campus activities. If your results are positive, the University COVID-19 Health Team will work with you directly to provide further instructions for self-isolation, contact tracing, and any follow-up medical care.
Does this screening eliminate the need to wear a face covering or physically distance?
No, the screening provides a snapshot of a person’s status at the time the sample is collected. It provides brief reassurance and helps the University to identify people with asymptomatic infection and decrease spread in the campus community. All other disease mitigation activities, including the on-campus face covering requirement, will continue.
Return-to-Campus Screening Exceptions
Individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 by PCR or antigen AND provide documentation of the test results are exempt from COVID-19 screening for 90 days following their test date.
Individuals may defer the screening for up to two weeks if they are:
- Not feeling well for a reason other than suspected COVID-19, such as recovering from surgery, flu, strep throat, etc., so long as individuals will not be physically on-campus during this timeframe.
- Not available during the week they were selected for mitigation screening, i.e. vacation, travel, or other time off
- Currently in quarantine as a close contact of someone with COVID-19
Individuals may be exempt from the screening program if they:
- Are regularly screened for COVID-19 for employment outside of the University
- Follow established procedure for requesting a medical or religious exemption to participating in the screening process (further details for exemption requests will be shared in a future communication)
- Are employees who work entirely remotely and do not have physical interaction with other campus community members
- Are students who are attending classes entirely distance-based, and do not physically interact with other campus community members or on-campus services
- Have received a full course of the COVID-19 vaccine
Ongoing COVID-19 Screening
Throughout the duration of the spring semester, a percentage of on-campus faculty, staff, and students will be screened at random on a weekly, ongoing basis. This percentage will be determined by a recommendation from the ISU Health Committee and collaboratively approved by the Administrative Council. Screening recommendations will be based on contact tracing, local disease rates, and data gathered from prior campus test results. In the event that an individual falls into multiple eligible groups, the most frequent screening strategy will apply. Individuals will be notified by email if they have been selected for ongoing screening.
A list of FAQs has been compiled to educate the campus about Idaho State’s mandatory COVID-19 screening program. If you have additional questions after reviewing the online information, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (208) 282-2705.