College Students to Be Tested for Coronavirus Using Federal Allotment

A 21st Medical Group professional tests an individual for coronavirus at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. (Source: Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Alexis Christian)

Colleges and universities in Alabama and some underserved regions of the state will benefit from $30 million of the state’s federal allocation from the Cares Act, Gov. Kay Ivey announced Monday.

The state, the Alabama Department of Public Health and UAB will coordinate to develop a consortium of programs to focus on testing students before they return to college and a sentinel program to continue testing throughout the year, according to a statement from Ivey’s office.

“Our ability to test every student returning to campus will go a long way in helping us maintain a safe environment,” said UAB President Ray L. Watts.

The money also will go to a program called Stay Safe Together to deploy an app that will allow people to log their symptoms and then alert them if they have been near someone who has COVID-19. The app, being developed by UAB, potentially will be available to colleges and universities, as well as all public K-12 schools in the state, according to the statement.

Additionally, targeted testing will be implemented in some underserved regions of Alabama with identified health care disparities.

Protocols for administering the testing are being developed, and officials are considering conducting tests using a nasal swab or a saline gargle test being developed at UAB. The nasopharyngeal swab has been the standard of care, but some people find it uncomfortable.

In all, the state received about $1.9 billion in Cares Act funding.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is going to continue at least into the fall and early winter, and the Alabama Department of Public Health wants to ensure we are doing everything we can to give our state the best opportunity to navigate the crisis as safely and effectively as possible,” Dr. Scott Harris, state health officer, said.