Stetson to Offer Expanded PCR Testing for COVID-19 (No insurance required)

John B. Stetson statue wears a mask

As the Coronavirus Pandemic continues, the Stetson community needs to continue its efforts to reduce COVID-19 cases on campus. Testing to identify cases and maintaining strict Tier One measures for social distancing and cleaning are BOTH key to preventing an on-campus COVID-19 outbreak. “Remember, even when you have a negative test, there is a possibility you may have had an early-stage infection, which could not yet be detected,” said Danielle DeVoney, PhD, assistant professor of Practice in Public Health and member of the Safer Campus Task Force. This is one reason why we are staying at Tier One even after Gateway Testing. Retesting after returning to campus is another way to reduce the potential for campus outbreaks. All students, staff and faculty may participate in volunteer testing across the semester.

Stetson University is providing for new testing options this semester. All of the ongoing testing will be PCR-based – which is the most sensitive laboratory test.  Additionally, we will be collecting saliva samples rather than nasal and nasopharyngeal swabs.   

Stetson University will begin offering SalivaDirectTM PCR-based testing for students, faculty and staff at a testing event on Thursday, Jan. 21. This event is both our mandated student testing (higher contact student leaders and students participating in off-campus work) and voluntary community testing. Antigen-based COVID-19 tests have the advantage of providing immediate results and thus were selected for the Gateway Testing.  There is always some uncertainty in the rapid-antigen tests, like those used for the Gateway Testing, and the testing subgroup of the Safer Campus Task force recommends that members of our Stetson community take advantage of the additional testing opportunities that are being made available.

portrait - 2020 use this one
Lynn Schoenberg

The SalivaDirectTM PCR-based testing will be free for students and employees, and no insurance is required. Appointments are available online for Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. in the Rinker Field House, Hollis Center. Pre-registration is required. Appointment registration will close at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 20.    

“We’re excited to offer this new opportunity to have PCR testing on a regular basis on campus,” said Lynn Schoenberg, co-chair of the Safer Campus Task Force, which oversees Stetson’s safety and health procedures during the pandemic.

“That’s the real win here,” she added. “It’s the gold standard of testing.” 

Stetson used PCR testing for all mandatory testing in the Fall semester, but most students, faculty and staff have also received Rapid Antigen tests, including the voluntary testing events last fall. This SalivaDirectTM PCR-based testing differs in several ways, including:

• The test will require a 1 ml saliva specimen, or basically for the user to spit into a sterilized collection tube, instead of a nose swab.

• Community members cannot eat or drink for 30 minutes prior to their appointment, except they can drink water. If they consume anything else, the test won’t work. “That is a hard rule,” Schoenberg said.

• Unlike the Rapid Antigen test, SalivaDirectTM PCR-based testing results will not be available the same day. The medical lab will post the results in a Stetson online portal and emails individual participants within 24 to 48 hours of when the test was taken. “You don’t get the results instantaneously, but they’re more reliable results,” explained Colleen Vanderlip, chair of the Safer Campus Task Force Screening and Testing Subgroup.  

• Based on guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Florida Department of Health, this PCR testing can be utilized to leave isolation earlier than 10 days for exposed persons if they test on or after the sixth day of their isolation.

With this PCR testing, samples will be shipped directly to a medical lab to perform diagnostic testing. The lab is CLIA certified for high complexity, following the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) that regulates laboratory testing and requires clinical laboratories to be certified by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

A student checks in for COVID-19 testing at the Rinker Field House during the Fall semester.

With the PCR testing, students and employees will be asked for their Stetson ID when they arrive at the check-in desk in the Rinker Field House for their appointment. Trained Stetson employees will be available to guide users through the proper collection procedure: Affixing a label on the clear transport tube, providing a saliva sample, placing items with a pre-printed requisition into the biohazard specimen bag, and delivering completed bags to the transport station.

UPS will pick up transport boxes on testing days and take them to the lab, which will perform the diagnostics and share the results.  

Schoenberg thanked the team that worked quickly to bring this new testing to Stetson, including Colleen Vanderlip, chair of the Screening and Testing Subgroup and director of Wellness and Recreation; Christina Kulpa, Wellness and Recreation associate director; Danielle DeVoney, PhD, assistant professor of Practice in Public Health and member of the Safer Campus Task Force; and new Health Service Director Johana Burgos, RN, also a member of the Safer Campus Task Force.

Register today for a PCR saliva test on Thursday, Jan. 21, from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. in the Rinker Field House, Hollis Center. For questions or concerns, please reach out to the Screening and Testing Subgroup at covidtesting@stetson.edu.