FAQs about La Salle’s COVID-19 testing strategy, answered

January 25, 2021

What’s an entry test? What’s a surveillance test? Do you know the difference?

La Salle University, in returning to an in-person experience for the Spring 2021 semester, is taking measures to ensure the health and safety of its community. Those measures include the requirement of a COVID-19 entry test for everyone planning to live, learn, or work on campus. The COVID-19 antigen tests were administered at TreeTops Café, with results available in-person and via email in less than 15 minutes.

The University is utilizing antigen testing over antibody testing, as the latter often require laboratory appointments and provider authorizations, in addition to wait times of anywhere from three to six days for results, according to R. Scott Cook, DO, FAOASM, director of La Salle’s Student Health Center. The antigen tests, meanwhile, present a clearer picture of active infection and who may be carrying, and potentially spreading, the coronavirus, Cook said.

“Antigen testing detects the active presence of the COVID-19 virus,” said Cook. “Antibody testing detects the self-produced antibodies in one body’s, reflective of an immunologic response. Testing positive with an antibody test indicates that your body has seen the virus and responded to it, but it doesn’t tell me when you might have seen it or that you have active positivity.”

Who at La Salle is eligible to be tested?

All students (undergraduate, graduate, and evening), faculty, staff, and Christian Brothers who plan to live, learn, or work on campus will be required to take a COVID-19 entry test. Those same members of the University community are also eligible for surveillance testing.

What is an antigen test? How does it work?

An antigen test diagnoses active coronavirus infection by seeking molecules on the surface of the virus. According to the CDC, it can involve nasal or nasopharyngeal (the part of the throat behind the nose) swabs.

How accurate is an antigen test?

While the antigen test is a useful tool for widespread screening, including the screening of asymptomatic people, and positive results are usually highly accurate, false positives can occur—particularly in areas where very few people have the virus, the CDC said. Therefore, positive results may need to be confirmed with a molecular test, which involves either a nasopharyngeal swab, a nasal or throat swab, or a saliva sample.

Is an antigen test painful?

Depending on your threshold for pain, you could merely find the test uncomfortable. The test involves the use of a long thin stick with soft bristles on the end being inserted gently into a patient’s nose and passed to the back of the nose and throat, then rotated to collect a sample of secretions. Patients most often experience brief watering of eyes, possibly a cough or sneeze, and more rarely a triggering of the gag reflex.

Understandably, uncertainty and anxiety could exist in the University community as La Salle’s students, faculty, and staff return to campus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration provide answers to commonly asked questions about COVID-19 testing, based on the most timely information and guidelines.

What is surveillance testing?

To further ensure the safety of the La Salle community, beginning in late January, the University will reserve multi-hour blocks of time each Thursday and Friday to test a randomized selection of faculty, staff, and students—both residential and non-residential—for surveillance tests at the TreeTops Café Testing Center.

“The University views surveillance testing as a precautionary and preventive measure in its multi-tiered, robust testing strategy, aimed at mitigating the spread of COVID-19,” Cook said.

If chosen for surveillance testing, an individual would receive an email notifying them of their selection and a link for them to set an appointment. It’s likely a member of the University community who maintains a campus presence could be selected more than once across the course of this semester, Cook said.

What is symptomatic testing?

Once on campus, students who experience COVID-19 symptoms may be directed to symptomatic testing on campus. Students who have been informed by University contact tracing representatives that they have been exposed to an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19 may be tested on campus. Employees who are symptomatic or have been exposed to an individual who has tested positive will be directed to access testing through their personal health care provider.

Where can I find more information?

Visit La Salle’s return to campus page and read the University’s return plan to learn more.

—Patrick Berkery