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UW–Madison to expand COVID-19 testing in spring

November 5, 2020 By Kelly April Tyrrell

To accommodate more regular and frequent COVID-19 testing of all students and employees on campus in the spring semester, the University of Wisconsin–Madison will partner with Shield T3, a subsidiary of the University of Illinois System.

Shield T3 was formed to expand the reach of an accurate and rapid saliva-based PCR diagnostic test pioneered by researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. UW–Madison will incorporate the test into its existing campus testing program.

“We are proud to partner with Shield T3 to offer additional and more frequent COVID-19 testing to our employees and students,” says UW–Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank. “We know that our testing has and will continue to play an important role in limiting disease spread.”

In the fall semester, UW–Madison has been able to provide quick and robust testing for all members of the campus community thanks to the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, which partnered with the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene to provide accurate, diagnostic nasal swab PCR testing. The WWCL (WVDL WSLH Covid-19 Laboratory) will continue to provide up to 12,000 tests per week for the UW–Madison campus over the course of the spring semester.

UW–Madison has also partnered with Madison-based Exact Sciences this fall to provide PCR tests at many of its on-campus test locations.

Shield T3 (for Target, Test, Tell) will be able to add up to 10,000 additional tests per day, as needed, to ensure all undergraduate students who are in Madison are tested twice each week. Employees and graduate students working on or visiting campus will also be required to be tested regularly.

UW–Madison will establish multiple additional testing sites on campus where students and employees will submit saliva samples for quick results.

Through its partnership with Shield T3, UW–Madison will also receive access to a mobile app that can be used to provide rapid notifications of test results and to help ensure individuals accessing campus spaces are up to date with campus testing requirements.

“To date, our campus safety protocols have helped ensure COVID-19 has not spread in spaces like classrooms and laboratories,” says Provost Karl Scholz. “With increased testing and the ability to ensure our employees and students are getting tested regularly, we feel confident about our path forward for the spring semester.”

UW–Madison will offer a hybrid model of instruction for spring 2021, with a mix of in-person and virtual courses.

In addition to expanded testing, UW–Madison will continue to provide isolation and quarantine space for University Housing students in the spring, and the university will continue to perform contact tracing of all employees and students.

“We know that testing is a powerful tool at our disposal for helping control the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19,” says Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and Executive Director of University Health Services Jake Baggott, UW–Madison’s chief health officer. “That said, we will continue to need everyone in our campus community to play their part: Wear a face covering, maintain physical distance, avoid gatherings with people you don’t live with, and wash your hands often.”

The testing plans for spring are distinct from the recent announcement that UW System is partnering with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to provide surge testing using Abbott BinaxNow rapid antigen tests this fall. UW–Madison will receive a portion of these tests, which will allow it to do expanded testing over the next several weeks, in partnership with Public Health Madison & Dane County.

Shield T3 and UW–Madison will continue to work together this fall and winter to establish terms and performance goals. More details about how the partnership will augment the campus approach will be provided as they become available, as will details about how the new approach will affect various members of the campus community.

Tags: covid-19