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COVID-19 required surveillance testing

Since the spring term, the University of Cincinnati has used a combination of both required and voluntary strategic surveillance testing (defined as testing that is not related to symptoms or suspected exposure) among students in order to help monitor trends and prevalence related to COVID-19.

COVID-19 rates are rising in Hamilton County and Ohio, and the public health emergency continues. Because testing is a key strategy in control of transmission, along with all-important behavioral measures of social distancing, facial coverings, hand and surface hygiene and staying home when sick, our medical experts have recommended we institute required testing to ensure we have continued participation in our campus screening test program.

Starting the week of October 19, the university will expand its required strategic surveillance testing program among students as another means to monitor trends and promote good health. Getting tested for COVID-19 and becoming an active participant in public health efforts is an important way for members of our Bearcat community to work together. Testing paired with good health habits is an easy, quick and incredibly consequential way to make sure we're each doing our part to keep our community safer and healthier. It’s one way that all of us help to protect each of us.

Students will receive notice when they have been selected to participate in ongoing, weekly random surveillance testing. Participation in such testing will be required of students who fall into the following categories unless they meet the needed qualifications for a testing exemption.

Testing required for the following

  • Residential students living in UC Housing
  • Students attending face-to-face classes or hybrid classes on the Uptown Campus
  • Students who work or conduct research on campus

And even though we’re moving to require testing as outlined above and below, voluntary participation in testing will still be an option too.

And, testing for those exhibiting symptoms that may be related to COVID-19 or who may have been exposed to the virus will still be available through University Health Services.

Why is UC expanding required strategic surveillance testing

The university’s student population is to be commended for participating in ongoing strategic surveillance testing and, importantly, for adapting and adhering to the vital personal and community behavioral practices that serve as the very best of tools for mitigating COVID-19 risk and spread.

The UC community of students, faculty and staff has been consistent in the required use of facial coverings, physical distancing, personal hygiene, attention to sanitization, self-monitoring and appropriate self-care, which includes staying home if ill.

Our overall planning is guided by recommendations of our medical experts with consideration of the Ohio Department of Health, the Ohio Department of Higher Education and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance. And as has been stated many times, planning may evolve due to any number of factors, whether based on evolving science or proven effectiveness for a particular setting. Our testing and tracing efforts are under continuous review and modification based on the evolving scientific evidence and public health recommendations.

As such, the decision to expand the required component of strategic surveillance testing stems from several factors:

  • We are entering flu and cold season, with more time spent indoors.
  • Ongoing trends related to both the State of Ohio and the local region. Just this past Friday, October 9, Ohio reported more cases of coronavirus than ever before in a single day. Hamilton, Clermont and Butler counties remain at the red level on the Ohio Department of Health's public health advisory system.
  • The need to maintain momentum and consistency. To date, the voluntary component of strategic surveillance testing has generally worked well on campus, with hundreds of students voluntarily participating in strategic surveillance testing during most weeks. But, with required testing, we can better ensure the overall consistency (and statistical validity) of week-over-week turnout over the long term.
  • As we track national trends and consult our Academic Health Center epidemiologists and infectious disease experts, forecasts and analysis suggest participation in voluntary testing may be leveling off and becoming more uneven. Across the country, professionals who work on COVID-19 prevention and mitigation are hearing a new term: “testing fatigue.” Its meaning is self-explanatory, but the bottom line is that we need strategic surveillance testing to help prevent and mitigate the spread of the virus.

What to expect in the testing experience

  • Students selected for required strategic surveillance testing will be notified via their university email, along with instructions for next steps.
  • Strategic surveillance testing will be available on campus, but students may also fulfill the testing requirement via other, off-campus providers, such as private physicians, Kroger's Little Clinics or a variety of locales offered by the Hamilton County Health Department. See the Hamilton County Health Department's site for testing sites available in Hamilton County.
  • For students opting to fulfill the testing requirement on campus, strategic surveillance testing will be provided weekly (on Tuesdays) by Wild Health Laboratory of Lexington, Kentucky, from 10 a.m.-6 p.m., at the TUC Cinema. This will be the testing location as of October 20. Their clinical professionals will collect a sample from a swab placed very gently in the lower part of the nose known as the nasal sample. It’s quick, easy and free (with no charge to students). The entire testing experience requires less than 5 minutes.
  • Students may also choose to participate in strategic surveillance testing provided by Hamilton County Test and Protect, which will come to campus weekly (on Mondays, Oct. 19-Nov. 23, 1-6 p.m.) in the banquet room at Stratford unit No. 16, 2634 Stratford Avenue (west side of Clifton Avenue). This testing is open to all. Please note that Test and Protect will ask for insurance information; however, if a student’s insurance does not cover the test, there will be no charge to the student. Also note that, currently, Test and Protect performs nasopharyngeal sampling, which makes use of long-handled swabs.
  • Please expect to social distance and wear a mask during testing, except while the test is actually being performed.
  • Testing results are generally available within 48-72 hours of the test.
  • Students participating in the required surveillance testing will receive a $5 credit on their Bearcat Card and will received a free KN-95 mask.

Exemption process

Unless a student receives an exemption from testing, failure to respond and obtain a test may result in loss of access to university spaces and services.

Exemptions from on-campus strategic surveillance testing may be granted based on the following:

  • A student is currently in quarantine or isolation.
  • They have a medical condition that precludes them from having the test done.
  • They prefer to be tested by another source within a week, before or after, their assigned time. Note that UC will not reimburse for testing done at alternative facilities. Students must share the results with UC. 
  • They are currently sick and unable to get to the testing facility. 
  • They have a sincerely held religious belief.
  • They have tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 90 days.

Contact Us

University Health Services

Richard E. Lindner Center
2751 O'Varsity Way, 3rd Floor
Cincinnati, OH 45221-0010

Mail Location: 0769
Phone: 513-556-2564
Fax: 513-556-1337