Liz McCormick Published

W.Va. Colleges, Universities Will Begin Ramped Up Surveillance Testing Next Week

Sarah Armstrong Tucker, chancellor of both the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission and the West Virginia Community and Technical College System of West Virginia, speaks at a virtual press briefing with Gov. Jim Justice on Sept. 30, 2020.

All of West Virginia’s two and four-year public and private nonprofit higher education institutions will see support from the state to help increase surveillance testing for the coronavirus.

Surveillance testing, according to the U.S. Federal Food and Drug Administration, is used to gain information at a population level, rather than an individual level. It may be random sampling of a certain percentage of a specific population to monitor for increasing or decreasing prevalence of an outbreak of a disease.

Gov. Jim Justice, alongside the state’s higher education systems Chancellor Sarah Armstrong Tucker, announced earlier this week that colleges and universities in the state will be given resources to conduct surveillance testing.

This will allow for 10 percent of students and staff at each school to be tested every week beginning next week.

According to the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission, testing will be funded through the CARES Act, and will cost $8 million.

The HEPC said the state will be centrally purchasing the tests, and then distributing them to the colleges.

“That allows us to do saliva-based PCR tests,” said Tucker in a recent virtual press briefing with the governor. “The institutions are able to administer the tests themselves. We won’t have to rely on, or provide further strain on the local health department, so that they can continue to do the community testing the governor has already said is so desperately needed in our state.”

Tucker said all higher education institutions in the state continue to see less than one percent, week-to-week, of students, faculty and staff testing positive for the virus since reopening campuses.

“We want to keep it that way,” she said. “We want to make sure that our colleges aren’t contributing to the spread of COVID in our state, and this surveillance testing is a huge way for us to be able to do that.”