COVID-19 testing explained: AU continues partnership with Shield T3 for spring semester
University spokesperson cites $1 million cost to build testing clinic, 1:1 testing style
American University officials confirmed they will not mandate regular and frequent coronavirus testing for vaccinated students on campus at this time, but said the possibility was not out of the question in a Tuesday community forum.
Elizabeth Deal, assistant vice president for community and internal communications, said AU requires testing for every community member within 48 hours of their initial return to campus, per a Jan. 10 email from President Burwell.
“We continue to follow the science on our protocols for testing to ensure the health and safety of our community,” Deal said in an email to The Eagle.
Deal did not specify how the University would enforce the testing requirement.
AU partnered with University of Illinois’ Shield T3 in March 2021 to launch a mobile testing laboratory shared with the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area and Gallaudet, Catholic and Marymount Universities. The lab, which Deal said cost the University $1 million to set up and staff, can process more than 50,000 COVID-19 tests each week.
Shield T3 employs a 1:1 testing option, as opposed to pooled saliva-based testing — combining multiple samples in the lab so that more tests can be run at the same time. Deal said the University has used 1:1 testing from the start as pooled testing was not yet available.
Deal said PCR tests cost the University $25 each, but they have decreased in cost as more tests have become available.
Other D.C. schools are mandating COVID-19 testing this semester, including Gallaudet and George Washington Universities. GWU requires students to receive a booster shot and undergo testing once every 15 days, and weekly testing for students who are exempt from the vaccine or vaccinated without the booster.
American University requires unvaccinated community members with an approved exemption to test twice a week.
At a Jan. 3 question and answer session, Student Government President Chyna Brodie said that because Shield T3 is an external party, mandating the regular testing of every student on campus could “overwhelm the system.”
Brodie said universities like GWU have a greater testing capacity since they received federal or state funding to build their own labs. AU received federal funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, a majority of which goes toward COVID-19 testing, Deal said.
In a community forum Tuesday, Fanta Aw, vice president of campus life and inclusive excellence, said the University’s COVID-19 response team will look into regular testing requirements for specific groups of our community, and they will distribute more information in the near future.
“We all need to do our part,” Aw said. “As we move from the crisis response to an operational response, we need to be in a place where we understand the shared community responsibility for health.”