UVA Begins Program to Provide Mandatory COVID-19 Testing for Students

rotunda through the trees on the lawn

(Photo by Sanjay Suchak, University Communications)

The University of Virginia on Monday launched an online portal through which students may order self-administered COVID-19 test kits.

All undergraduate and graduate students who are planning to return to Grounds – including those living in UVA residence halls and those living in Charlottesville or Albemarle County who will attend classes or labs, either in-person or fully online – must submit COVID-19 test results to the University before they are allowed to return. Students who do not complete the test and submit their results will not be allowed to return.

UVA has contracted with Let’s Get Checked, a commercial medical testing laboratory, to provide the test kits and process them in their lab. Students are encouraged to order a free kit through the vendor’s site by end of day on Wednesday, Aug. 5, to ensure that it can be shipped in time. Students may still order after Aug. 5, but should be prepared for a potential delay in delivery. Students should open the test kit, take a sample and return the kits when they are about seven days away from returning to Grounds.

The testing requirement is one component of UVA’s COVID-19 Prevention, Detection and Response plan for resuming in-person instruction this fall and keeping students, faculty, staff and Charlottesville neighbors safe in the process. Additional information is available at the Return to Grounds site.

Returning students are also strongly recommended to self-quarantine beginning 14 days before returning to Grounds. That means staying at home, separate from others outside the home, monitoring health and following local or state health directions – including appropriate physical distancing, use of face coverings, and frequent hand washing. Students not able to self-quarantine should minimize contact with others, avoid large social events or interacting with more than a few people at a time.

Fall 2020 Return to Grounds. Find out more.

UVA Today consulted several resources and sources in both the UVA Academic Division and UVA Health to compile this list of questions and answers about the student testing program:

Q. How many students does the University expect to order kits and self-administer the tests?

A. UVA ordered 20,000 kits to cover the pre-arrival mandatory testing. This is its best estimate of the number needed, but the University has the ability to order additional tests if necessary.

Q. UVA’s kits are for COVID-19 viral PCR tests. What does that mean and why did UVA select that kind of test?

A. Viral PCR tests are considered to be the gold standard for diagnosing active infection in symptomatic cases of COVID-19. Other methodologies for viral testing are looking for viral proteins (also known as antigen testing) and serological tests which look at whether a person may have been infected in the past by detecting antibodies against the virus. The antigen testing methods are not as well-validated and this technology is still developing. 

In general, serologic tests also are not helpful in diagnosing individuals with active COVID-19 infection, but rather identify those who have developed an immune response and have recovered from infection.

Q. Why should students wait until seven days before their planned return to administer the test and send in their kits? How long will it take to get results?

A. Students should order the kits as soon as possible now that the testing portal is open. They should self-test and return the sample at least seven days before their planned return to Grounds. The University wants to limit the period of time between testing and return to Grounds as much as possible to limit the possibility that a student may get infected during this period of time. In addition, the turn-around time period for the testing kits is three to four days. Thus, the seven-day period is developed to ensure that UVA receives the test results, and can review them, but at the same time limits the time period between testing and return.

Q. What is considered a return-to-Grounds date that can be used to figure out the right day to take the test and submit the results?

A. Students should test and return their test sample to Let’s Get Checked according to the following plan:

  • Undergraduate students in residence halls: Test and return sample seven days prior to move-in.
  • Graduate students in residence halls: Test and return sample seven days prior to move-in; if already here, test as soon as possible.
  • Off-Grounds students living in Charlottesville or Albemarle County: Test and return sample seven days prior to the first day of class, whether that class is in-person or online; if already here, test and return test as soon as possible.

Q. How will students and the University be notified of the test results?

A. The laboratory will provide the student with test results through an online portal and will simultaneously notify Student Health of the test results. Students who receive a negative test result will be automatically cleared to return to Grounds. No other action is needed by the student. Please do not call Student Health to ask if they received your test results.

Q. Are students required to use the Let’s Get Checked kit to take a COVID test?

A. No, though it is strongly recommended. Students may use their own physician or another source at their own expense, and results must be provided to UVA Student Health via the Healthy Hoos portal before returning to Grounds. Antibody tests will not be accepted.

Q. How will the testing program work for international students?

A. The test kits can only be shipped to U.S. addresses. Students traveling from abroad must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in the U.S. and can order a test kit upon arrival. International students and domestic students coming from abroad should seek more information and guidance from the UVA International Studies Office.

Q. Do students who are living off-Grounds and taking classes fully online still have to take the test?

A. Yes. All undergraduate and graduate students who are planning to live anywhere in Charlottesville or Albemarle County must take the COVID test. This includes those in the local community who expect to have all their classes online. This requirement is part of the University’s effort to keep its local community neighbors safe as well.

Q. Where can students and parents find more information?

A. More questions and answers about students returning to Grounds and testing can be found at this Return to Grounds FAQ.

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