K-State will conduct symptomatic, surveillance COVID-19 tests in lieu of full student body testing

(Illustration by Julie Freijat | Collegian Media Group)

Kansas State will not be conducting mandatory COVID-19 tests as students return to campus this week, Dr. Kyle Goerl, medical director of Lafene Health Center, said.

“The truth is there’s really no one way to do this,” Dr. Goerl said. “There is no blueprint out there right now. You see a number of testing strategies being deployed across the United States on different campuses. There are some general themes, but there does not appear to be a clear, one size fits all testing strategy for college and institutes of higher education.”

Dr. Goerl said the university has met with epidemiologists and statisticians to come up with the current testing strategy.

“The [Center for Disease Control and Prevention] and [the Kansas Department of Health and Environment] have been very clear that, at least as it relates to mandatory testing upon arrival to campus, there’s not really good data to support that,” he said. “It doesn’t seem to do much good to test an entire group of individuals once with no plan to do further surveillance testing.”

In addition to the CDC and KDHE guidance, Dr. Goerl said there are other reasons why the university didn’t opt to test the whole student body.

“You really can’t test your way out of pandemic,” he said. “It is a critical part of the overall response, but it is not the solution to everything. The simple things are still the most critical and those three things are really masks and hygiene and physical distancing. That’s the best way to mitigate the spread. Yes we need testing, yes it needs to be robust, but we still need to do those three things extremely well in order to give us a good chance of having a successful fall semester.”

K-State does still plan to do symptomatic and surveillance testing on campus. Dr. Goerl said he considers the testing procedures paired with plans for contact tracing “robust.”

“We are getting tests back still routinely within a day to a day and a half,” he said. “That is critical for our ability to contact trace adequately, and that’s the best way to try and mitigate the spread of the virus.”

Even though this is the current testing strategy, Dr. Goerl said it could change at any point.

“Testing is evolving,” he said. “It is an evolving entity, it is changing by the day. What a testing strategy may look like right now, could very well be different, tomorrow. And that is based largely on availability of supplies.”