COVID-19 Pool Testing Plan
2020-2021 Academic Year
As we follow best practices and develop a series of enhanced policies and procedures to ensure safety on campus this academic year, Mount Saint Vincent is focused foremost on the goal of minimizing the risk of COVID-19 infections. In addition to implementing the CDC safety recommendations (i.e. social distancing, face coverings, completion of a health screening survey), we will begin conducting regular COVID-19 saliva-based pool (or population) tests each week for a statistically significant portion of the campus population.
Below, we attempt to anticipate and answer questions that you may have regarding pool testing. As always, we welcome your additional questions or concerns. Please submit comments or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. We will either respond personally or update this FAQ page.
What is pool testing?
Rather than test each individual student and employee separately, a time and resource-intensive process, samples can be combined—or pooled—to cut down on the number of tests. If one person within a pool of 24 samples tests positive, the entire pool is flagged as positive and subsequent protocols and testing are enacted.
Why is Mount Saint Vincent using COVID-19 pool testing?
Pool testing can identify and isolate asymptomatic carriers of the COVID-19 virus more effectively than other approaches, thus enhancing the health and safety of those on campus. The weekly random sample, comprised of segments of all campus constituencies, will alert us to areas potentially requiring intervention.
Are you required to participate in pool testing to attend (and/or work) at Mount Saint Vincent this year?
At this time, participation in pool testing is voluntary. We appreciate your cooperation.
How does the testing process work?
The test requires each individual to submit a vial of saliva. The College will provide the vial and collection tools, and will train students, faculty, and staff regarding this simple process. Students and employees will bring their sample to a designated location on campus. Samples will be taken to a lab for analysis. If a pool is positive (maximum size of a positive pool will be two individuals), individuals in the pool will have immediate access to an individual diagnostic test and other supports.
How reliable is the test?
Based on efficacy studies conducted to date, the Mirimus pool test protocol detects the existence of the COVID-19 virus as well as it can be detected via an individual COVID-19 test, but at a fraction of the cost, thus allowing the College to regularly test a sample of the campus population. The test’s accuracy is virtually identical to that of FDA approved PCR individual tests, which are the most accurate types of tests available. Mirimus has conducted experiments where they compare results from pooled testing to individual tests for the same individuals from a very close point in time and found a 97 percent match. Retesting exactly the same samples with the corresponding individual test yielded a 100 percent match.
Please remember that a negative test does not always imply that there is no virus in the individual’s system. For example, soon after infection the body is not shedding virus, so the person is not infectious and the virus is not detectable by a test. Other factors can also affect the presence of virus in the sample.
Even with a negative result, everyone should abide by the recommended health practices such as mask wearing, physical distancing, and hand washing.
Is there a potential for false positives?
False positives are possible but rare. The test utilized by Mirimus detects three different unique viral RNA templates. For a positive result, at least two RNA templates must be detected. The protocols used substantially decrease false positives created by detecting dead viral particles.
If Mount Saint Vincent tests the community, do we still need to wear masks, practice social distancing, etc.?
The implementation of the pool tests is intended to supplement and not replace the other safety actions on campus (e.g. mask wearing, frequent hand washing, social distancing). Using pool testing in addition to following safety recommendations will help the College’s students and employees minimize health issues related to COVID-19, dramatically reducing the number of people on campus who are COVID-positive.
How is user privacy ensured?
Mount Saint Vincent, working with SC Community Partners, will create a simple in-house system and protocols that meet and exceed all HIPPA privacy protections afforded every individual. There will be no transmission of any personal information in connection with a student or employee’s test sample. Your saliva samples will be used for COVID-19 testing only. Only approved CMSV administrators will be able to view all pool results. The lab (Mirimus) will never know the identity of those being tested, as they only receive bar coded vials.
Where will the pooled tests be administered?
Testing kits will be distributed at various locations on campus and collected at a designated location. After all samples are received on campus, the SC Community Partners team will ensure that the pool racks are safely and quickly delivered to Mirimus at SUNY Downstate in Brooklyn, N.Y.
How quickly will we get back the results?
Pool results will be available to the College’s administrative team within 24-48 hours following sample submission.
Will I receive my test result?
Individuals who test positive or require follow-up diagnostic testing will be notified and given information about next steps.
What are the possible risks of being in the program?
There are no health risks associated with the saliva-based COVID-19 pool test study.
What happens to the samples after they have been tested?
Samples are destroyed by the lab after one week.