• September 20, 2020
 UTEP President sends out email outlining university’s COVID-19 guidelines for Fall

Photo courtesy UTEP

UTEP President sends out email outlining university’s COVID-19 guidelines for Fall

Tuesday evening, UTEP President Heather Wilson sent out an email regarding the college’s new ‘Coronavirus Proactive Testing Program.’

The new program seeks to test students, faculty and staff who will be physically on campus, so as to prevent the spread of the virus.  Test results will be ready in 24-48 hours, with results being emailed to the test subject.

Testing is set to start August 17th, with those who are already on campus and continue testing for two weeks.  Thereafter, testing will be done on a random basis.

UTEP officials remind all involved that “Anyone who is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or feeling ill, or who has been exposed to someone with COVID-19, should stay home and must NOT come to campus for testing.”

Officials add that the program is voluntary, and those who will be on campus will receive an email with instructions, as well as a consent form.

President Wilson’s entire email is reprinted below.

With the fall semester less than a month away, we are making final preparations to conduct coronavirus testing for students, faculty and staff who will be on campus in order to identify and suppress the spread of disease on campus.

Proactive testing for the virus that causes COVID-19 is one important part of our strategy to control the spread of the virus as we transition to face-to-face classes and in-person work. The voluntary testing program will help us quickly identify those who are infected, even if they are not experiencing symptoms, and have them stay home so they do not spread the disease to others. The testing is free to enrolled students and employees who will be on campus, and we are planning to make it fast and convenient.

Anyone who is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or feeling ill, or who has been exposed to someone with COVID-19, should stay home and must NOT come to campus for testing. UTEP’s testing program is designed to identify asymptomatic individuals who may have the virus and not know it. If you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, you will be asked to report that to www.screening.utep.edu and encouraged to be tested at a community testing site.

Through this program, our goal is to maximize testing beginning Aug. 17 in order to offer testing to all students, faculty and staff who will be on campus as soon as possible as the semester starts. How quickly we will be able to accomplish this will depend on training and collection process assessments to be conducted over the next few weeks. It will also depend, in part, on the availability of the right kind of supplies for rapid sample collection.

Testing for On-Campus Faculty and Staff:

The week before school starts, Aug. 17-21, we will begin testing faculty and staff who are currently on campus or will be on campus during the fall semester. We will continue to test as many faculty and staff as we can through the first two weeks of school. Thereafter, testing of on-campus faculty and staff will continue with random samples generated weekly.

Students Residing on Campus:

We have reduced the number of students residing in campus dormitories during the fall semester and every student will have their own bedroom. In addition, we will offer frequent, free, proactive testing to those living in the residence halls.

Beginning Aug. 17, students residing on campus will be strongly encouraged and provided the opportunity to be tested before or while moving into the residence halls. We are planning for students residing on campus to be invited to re-test every two weeks throughout the fall semester.

Student-Athletes on Campus:

UTEP has been testing every athlete as they arrive on campus for voluntary workouts through a commercial provider.

Beginning Aug. 17, all student-athletes will be tested under the UTEP proactive testing program. Upon starting their respective seasons, they will be tested according to NCAA guidelines. These guidelines include protocols of testing within 72 hours before each contest.

Other Students on Campus:

All students on campus, other than those tested in the dorms or on athletic teams, will be invited to test beginning the week of Aug. 24. Thereafter, testing will continue to be available throughout the fall semester.

How it Works:

All students, faculty and staff who will be on campus during the fall semester will be notified of the voluntary testing program via email and asked to complete a one-time consent form that includes a privacy notice if they would like to participate. In order to make this a successful program, we highly encourage all Miners who will be on campus this fall to participate.

The email will remind you where the testing stations are located and times you can visit within the next week. We are currently planning for four outdoor testing locations: the Fox Fine Arts Complex lower level courtyard, the breezeway between the Engineering and Classroom buildings, the Union breezeway, and the Undergraduate Learning Center patio. Based on what we learn about sample processing over our trials in the coming weeks, we may adjust these locations. Any change in location will be communicated.

The proactive testing is for students, faculty and staff WITHOUT SYMPTOMS of the disease who will be on campus during the fall semester. If you are sick, STAY HOME.

During testing, you will be asked to present your UTEP ID, or provide your 800 number or your UTEP email address to check in.

Using UTEP’s expertise in the genetics of disease, we have received permission from the state to run a licensed and specially equipped laboratory on campus to test our students, faculty and staff for coronavirus. Your sample will not leave the campus, which will allow us to get test results much faster than commercial laboratories.

Test Results:

Tests will be analyzed and results shared with you within 24-48 hours. Each participant will receive an e-mail notification when test results are available. They will log in to a secure website to access the results.

If the results are negative, no further action will be required. It will still be important to continue with best practices, including wearing face coverings when in common areas, maintaining a minimum separation of six (6) feet between yourself and others, and washing hands frequently.

If your test result is positive, you will be required to stay home and will receive a phone call from a UTEP Environmental Health and Safety employee, who will advise you on next steps. The University will also work to immediately determine if any classmates, instructors, or co-workers may have been exposed. These individuals will be contacted and invited to test.

It is also possible to receive an inconclusive, or indeterminate, result. That means there was not enough material collected during the swabbing process. If this is the case, you will be encouraged to take the test again.

Coronavirus testing will continue through the fall semester.

The testing program is an interdisciplinary effort led by faculty in the Border Biomedical Research Center, Biological Sciences, Public Health Sciences and Mathematics. It also involves staff from the Office of Research and Sponsored Projects, Information Technology and University Relations.

The program is funded by federal dollars through the CARES Act.

Additional information about the testing program, including answers to frequently asked questions, is available at www.utep.edu/resuming-campus-operations/testing.

UTEP’s proactive community testing program is one part of our four-part strategy to continue our teaching and research mission before a vaccine is available.

  • We are allowing students and employees to work and study remotely when they can. Only 25% of our fall classes have a face-to-face component, with only 5% fully face-to-face. The majority of our staff and faculty will work remotely this semester.
  • We will use best health practices all the time. If you are sick, stay home. Cover your face. Stay 6 feet apart. Wash your hands frequently. We want Miners to lead the way, be positive role models for others, and establish a culture in our community that will help keep us all healthy.
  • We are making efforts to make the campus safe for those who cannot work or study remotely. Classrooms have been reconfigured. Cleaning is enhanced. It will be easy to wash your hands and clean your desk before class.
  • We will have a proactive UTEP testing program. We want to identify those who are sick and don’t know it so that they can stay home.

I encourage you to participate in the testing program and help do your part to limit transmission of this virus at UTEP and in El Paso.

Heather Wilson

UTEP President

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