COVID 19 virus graphic

COVID Testing

Colleges and universities across the country have adopted various testing protocols. Furman is following the guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, the American College Health Association, Prisma Health, and Furman epidemiologists.

Ensuring that health and safety remain our top priority includes responding to continuing changes in the pandemic and the taking full advantage of the evolution of scientific guidance and tools to best mitigate risk. Since Summer 2020, PCR-based testing has become readily available in most localities nationwide, and in many locations offered free of charge by public health agencies with results typically available within 72 hours. This represents a significant improvement from the 7-10 day wait periods experienced in late summer, and makes it viable for all students to test within 5 days of their return to campus, thus providing a result that meaningfully contributes to campus health and safety. For students where testing is not possible, Furman can direct them to a local lab in Greenville, SC that offers drive-through PCR testing with a turnaround time of typically 24-36 hours.

With the continued development and distribution of rapid antigen and other testing modalities, Furman will continue monitor access, accuracy and federal, state and local guidance.

Negative COVID Test Required to Return to Campus in January

Upon return to campus in January, Furman will require all residential to obtain a negative nucleic amplification-based molecular diagnostic test for SARS-CoV-2 (RT-PCR or NAAT) in order to access campus.  The NAAT test is becoming more readily available across the country and typically provides same day results. Either test should be obtained prior to returning to campus. Rapid antigen test results will not be accepted.

Most medical insurance plans will cover the cost of the test, and many state health departments or other agencies, provide free testing opportunities. Furman will cover the difference using the Student Sickness Benefits plan. You will just need to submit a claim for reimbursement.

Students living on campus over winter break

Students approved to live in campus housing over the winter break must get tested between January 10-15 and provide the test results to the Earle Student Health Center at furmanstudenthealth@prismahealth.org.

Spring early arrivals

Approved early arrivals returning between January 4-14, must provide a documented negative test to the Earle Student Health Center prior to their arrival to campus.  The SARS-CoV-2 PCR or NAAT test must be administered no earlier than five days prior to returning and the negative test result should be sent to furmanstudenthealth@prismahealth.org and their early arrival coordinator (i.e. athletic trainer, supervisor, etc.).

Residential students returning on January 15-18

Students returning to campus on January 15-18, must provide a documented negative test to the Earle Student Health Center prior to their arrival to campus.  The SARS-CoV-2 PCR or NAAT test  must be administered between January 10-15 and the negative test result should be sent to furmanstudenthealth@prismahealth.org.

Commuters

Since commuters are not permitted on campus the first week of the term, they no longer need to submit a negative test result prior to arrival, but will be tested during the first week of the semester along with the residential students.

The Vinings residents

Students living in The Vinings over the winter break must get tested between January 10-15 and provide the test results to the Earle Student Health Center at furmanstudenthealth@prismahealth.org. Students returning to The Vinings on January 15-18, must provide a documented negative test to the Earle Student Health Center prior to their arrival to campus.  The SARS-CoV-2 PCR or NAAT test  must be administered between January 10-15 and the negative test result should be sent to furmanstudenthealth@prismahealth.org.

Delayed return to campus

Students who choose to delay their return to campus should also delay their pre-arrival COVID test. Students arriving later in the semester must provide a documented negative test to the Earle Student Health Center within 5 days of their return to campus.

Tested positive already

Students who have tested positive for COVID-19 using a SARS-Cov-2 PCR test fewer than 90 days prior to their return date, and who are not currently in isolation, may submit those results to the Earle Student Health Center in lieu of mandatory testing.

If a student tests positive prior to coming to campus, they must stay home and contact the Earle Student Health Center. Further guidance on returning to campus will be provided by the ESHC.

Mail-in testing programs

Furman will accept results from mail-in COVID testing programs that are collected within the designated five-day window.  These tests must be PCR tests and saliva-based.  Furman will not accept the self-administered nasal swab samples or rapid antigen tests.  Some mail-in testing programs are listed below:

  • Vault: Results of the PCR saliva-based test are taken via Zoom call, and are available within 48 to 72 hours after the lab receives the test kit. Cost: $119
  • Azova: Results of the PCR saliva-based tests are taken via a Zoom call, and are available within 48 to 72 hours after the lab receives the test kit. Cost: $168.  This kit can also be purchased at COSTCO for $129.99.
  • OnSite Safe: Results of PCR saliva-based tests are available within 48 hours after being received by the lab. Costs $127.95 with free shipping.  An expedited lab processing fee of $24.75 will guarantee results within 24 hours after the lab receives the test kit.

Furman’s Student Sickness Benefits plan will not be able to cover the mail-in testing program.

Local testing sites

SC DHEC offers free testing in South Carolina. Click here to find the nearest location. They are providing results within 3-4 days.

Symptomatic Testing

Students who are symptomatic or who are concerned about being a close contact to an individual who is either symptomatic or has tested positive for COVID-19, should contact the Earle Student Health Center instead of seeking assistance in the external community, for the following reasons…

  1. The ESHC can coordinate and expedite testing if needed, providing all testing options for you.
  2. The ESHC can clarify and explain what type of exposure you may have had to an infected individual (i.e. primary vs. secondary), thus helping to decrease anxiety.
  3. The ESHC can initiate contact tracing to protect the Furman community.
  4. If you need to be in isolation or quarantine, the ESHC is able to help coordinate effective remote learning, meal delivery, and other support.

Students who do get tested in the external community and the result is positive for COVID-19, should isolate immediately, submit the LiveSafe Health Survey, and await instructions from the ESHC staff.

Surveillance Testing

Beginning in September, with improvements in testing availability, sampling modalities (e.g., saliva or nasal swab) and turnaround time (24-36 hours), the university added a randomized surveillance monitoring protocol. Each week, 20% of students participating in in-person instruction are tested at no cost using a PCR-based assay (saliva or nasal swab) in a convenient walk-up or drive-through on-campus location.

The combination of surveillance monitoring, daily screening, symptomatic testing, contact tracing and adherence to the Paladin Promise were highly successful in preventing viral spread in the Fall semester. This layered approach to public health will be even more essential to our success in the spring, with enhanced campus density over the entire term and increased time spent indoors where aerosol particles are not as readily dispersed.

Employee Testing

All employees working on campus are required to be tested before in-person classes begin on January 25. Instructions were emailed to employees on January 15.

Athletics Testing

As a Division I program, Furman Athletics must adhere to NCAA policies, including the NCAA Core Principles of Resocialization of Collegiate Sport regarding COVID-19 policies and procedures, which serves as a guide to Furman Athletics’ phased approach to returning. These policies include enhanced COVID-19 testing protocols for student-athletes and athletic staff. Student-athletes and select staff are tested at differing intervals as guided by NCAA/SoCon; sports that are actively “in season” are tested more regularly.  For example, all members of the men’s and women’s basketball teams and their staff are currently tested 3X per week.  In addition, student-athletes are included in the weekly surveillance monitoring testing conducted by Furman, and thus are ultimately evaluated at a much higher rate than the campus population as a whole.

What if I believe my test result is a false positive?

Furman uses a local medical provider using FDA-certified nasal and saliva PCR testing in our determinations. PCR is generally recognized as the most sensitive, specific, and accurate format for COVID-19 testing, recommended by CDC, SC DHEC and many other public health entities as the preferred test for asymptomatic testing in particular. Indeed, one of the reasons for the high accuracy associated with PCR testing is that it relies on directly multiplying and measuring SARS-CoV-2 viral DNA present in the sample, rather than protein fragments that may be associated with the virus (e.g. “rapid antigen” testing). Thus, true “false positives” are extraordinarily rare with PCR testing versus other testing modalities.

Because viral loads vary over the course of the disease, it is quite possible to test positive on one day, and as viral load begins to diminish, obtain a follow up test where the test results may be labelled as “SARS-CoV-2 not detected”, which is even more likely using the less sensitive rapid testing methods.  This does not, however, imply the initial test was in error, or result in a positive case being released from isolation.  The greater the time that passes from the initial sampling resulting in a positive test until the second test is sampled, the greater the chance the two tests may disagree. Different formats of PCR instrumentation, types of sampling methods, and differences in provider laboratories all contribute to the sensitivity for the test, including how many replication cycles are used to assign a positive case. For example, Furman’s provider automatically runs a duplicate test taken from the original sample for every positive test reported before the data are released to the student.

Invalidating a positive test is highly unusual and requires (1) clear clinical evidence to suspect an error and (2) multiple PCR tests with no viral load detected, sampled within 48 hours of the initial test. In such a rare circumstance, early release is at the discretion of the clinicians at the Earle Student Health Center.

Will an individual who has already tested positive for COVID-19 have to be tested or quarantined if he/she comes into close contact with an individual testing positive?

Furman follows the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SC-DHEC) and Prisma Health (our on-campus health provider). At the present time, guidance indicates that individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 and fully recovered are not required to re-test (e.g., participate in surveillance monitoring) for a period of 90 days since the initial positive test, as long as they remain asymptomatic. The Earle Student Health Center requires documentation of a prior positive test for any student who claims this exemption.

COVID Vaccinations

More information will be made available as the semester progresses about access to COVID vaccinations. In the meantime, students and employees who receive the vaccine are still expected to abide by the Paladin Promise and participate in surveillance testing. The reason for this is because it will take time for the vaccine to take effect and it is still unknown whether those who are vaccinated can still be carriers of the virus, and thus spreaders of it. The Earle Student Health Center will determine on a case-by-case basis whether a vaccinated student must quarantine as a close contact.

A limited number of Furman students and employees may have or will soon receive the vaccine as a result of potential exposures relating to their work in a healthcare capacity. Phase 1A has been focused on front-line healthcare workers and those living in long-term care facilities for example, and those 70 years of age or older. As we currently understand the rollout in South Carolina, Phase 1B will include front-line essential workers and employees working in the education sector including higher education teachers and support staff as defined by SC DHEC.

No decision has been made yet about whether Furman will require students and/or employees to be vaccinated.  A committee is exploring this issue currently.