UHS Provides Quick, Reliable Testing to Help Contain COVID-19 on Campus
For more than 80 years, the University of Michigan Health Service (UHS) has served to keep the campus community safe and healthy, and that has become an especially important task during the COVID-19 pandemic. Leading up to the public health-informed fall semester, UHS, along with public health experts and campus administration, developed a wide array of preventive measures and testing strategies to maintain a culture of care throughout the U-M community. From a de-densified campus with a majority of courses being conducted online, to a constantly evolving testing and tracking program, UHS and campus health officials continue to combat the virus on the frontlines using innovative tactics.
One of the most important components of the UHS strategy is administering reliable COVID-19 testing for U-M students, faculty, and staff who are exhibiting symptoms or have been in close contact with someone who tested positive. There are many benefits to having the test completed at UHS rather than an outside facility, including the rapid turnaround time for results thanks to a partnership with the Michigan Medicine laboratory teams.
An additional advantage is that test results from UHS are immediately integrated into information shared with campus partners, which allows for prompt communication and quick transitions into isolation or quarantine when needed.
“We instantaneously connect those results to campus partners so that we can get people safely into isolation and quarantine, and create situational awareness for the campus,” said Lindsey Mortenson, UHS Acting Executive Director and Adjunct Clinical Instructor in Psychiatry at the U-M Medical School.
UHS also maintains medical records for each patient, and partners with health care teams across campus, so getting tested at UHS streamlines the process of ensuring all medical information is available, ensuring first-rate continuous care.
There are multiple ways to begin the testing process:
- Call UHS at 734-764-8320 to speak with a nurse who can triage symptoms, conduct an evaluation, and provide step-by-step information for next steps
- Visit the website to start the online assessment, which might expedite the overall testing process
- Send a portal message through the UHS website
If a student, faculty, or staff member gets tested at an outside site, U-M will be notified, but it can delay the time it takes to begin providing care, arrange the move to isolation or quarantine, and notify campus partners. If a test is administered by an outside facility, UHS asks that the patient report results through the UHS website so they can begin contact tracing and investigation with Environment, Health & Safety teams as quickly as possible. Regardless of where a test is administered, all positive results are reported to the Washtenaw County Health Department and will trigger a contact tracer investigation to help identify other people in the community who might be at risk.
Another measure U-M has implemented to maintain the health and wellness of the community is a 14-day quarantine period for close contacts of someone diagnosed with COVID-19. Close contacts are expected to quarantine even if they receive a negative test result and aren’t showing symptoms at the time.
“A negative test result could mean that there wasn’t enough virus in your system for the test to detect it,” Mortenson explained.
UHS asks that those identified as a close contact wait at least five days after the most recent exposure to get testing, and to follow the quarantine guidelines to ensure they don’t spread the virus unknowingly to others.
As the COVID-19 pandemic has continued to evolve, UHS and public health officials have adapted plans to increase testing, implement community sampling and tracking, and provide regular updates on the COVID-19 dashboard. UHS is committed to transparency in their planning processes and is open to input from patients.
“I’m really grateful to our patients who are students, faculty, and staff. We are learning as we go, and are always open to your feedback on how we can improve,” Mortenson said.
Keeping the campus community safe and healthy is everyone’s top priority. Through diligent mitigation strategies and following public health guidelines, such as maintaining a physical distance of 6 feet or more, wearing a face covering, and staying home when feeling ill, everyone can contribute to slowing the spread of COVID-19 and protecting those who need it most. As researchers and medical experts continue to conduct groundbreaking work to identify treatments and prevention methods, it’s important for everyone to work together to demonstrate a culture of care to decrease risks of transmission. When there is a concern of a possible COVID-19 case on campus, UHS is prepared to conduct efficient testing and provide continuous care for the U-M community.