Community Perspectives: Weekly Testing for All
Students, faculty, and staff across Georgia Tech’s campus are adapting to a fall semester like none other. As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to alter class schedules and routines, Georgia Tech is implementing a number of procedures to protect our community, and beyond, from spreading the virus.
One effective method to help reduce the spread of Covid-19 is regular participation in campus surveillance testing. The free, quick, and straightforward test is offered at multiple testing locations across campus — and students, staff and faculty can easily register for their first test online, then stop by any testing site with no need for an appointment.
“I have had no problem getting tested at Tech,” shares Olivia Emmett, a second-year economics student from Evans, Georgia. “I like that it is all outside because I was afraid to go inside a building. I also like how nothing is going up my nose. I was getting routinely tested prior to showing up on campus, and the nose swab is unpleasant.”
She adds that being aware of her Covid-19 status through taking advantage of the surveillance testing is both relaxing and reassuring.
“I get tested because I have a lot of health anxiety. I like to know everything that is going on in my body because it keeps me sane! Also, I think that we all have a commitment to the people around us to know our status.”
The surveillance sites are equipped to handle over 2,000 tests daily, and Georgia Tech community members are encouraged to get tested each week to help beat the contagious transmission cycle of the virus.
“You gain peace of mind by being tested,” adds Anne Hardin, a double major student studying business administration and public policy from Atlanta, Georgia. “Joining Georgia Tech’s surveillance testing program is easy and low-stress. In order to keep your friends safe, make it a part of your life!”
Professor Greg Gibson, who set to work on creating the surveillance testing initiative in the spring, explains that weekly testing for all helps identify cases before the virus has a chance to silently spread to others.
“If every infected person gives the virus to just one and a half other people on average, then 100 cases this week becomes 150 next, then 225 the one after that, and over 500 by the end of September. On the other hand, if we can identify even half the cases, this completely offsets the growth and maybe even reduces the prevalence. To detect half the cases means testing everyone at least every other week, namely at least 1,500 people a day, preferably 2,500.”
Emmett acknowledges that testing can sometimes feel intimidating, and that many people may prefer to not know that they have contracted the virus. However, she notes that her testing experiences have been painless and positive, and encourages everyone on campus, especially fellow students, to get tested so that they can be certain of their status.
“It is better to know than not to know. I also think it is helpful that on campus we use the spit test, where we administer it ourselves. It is not painful at all, and it is done in a safe environment. Also, worst case scenario is that you come up positive, which I understand is scary, but it gives you time to be prepared.”
Hardin adds that arguing or resentment won’t prevent a virus from spreading, but that organized action can and will help contain the contagion. “Blaming one another hurts us. However, as individuals, it is our responsibility to do our part to keep our friends safe.” She encourages everyone in the Georgia Tech community who’s on campus this fall to take advantage of weekly testing to help stop the spread and crush the curve.
Learn more about Coronavirus testing options for the Georgia Tech community.
School of Biological Sciences faculty Greg Gibson, Joshua Weitz, and Julia Kubanek explain the science behind weekly campuswide surveillance testing:
In order for testing to help prevent a large-scale outbreak on campus, we need to catch infections before they spread. This means detecting infected individuals and isolating these individuals until they are no longer infectious, thereby breaking the contagious cycle of transmission.
Early detection of infected individuals also helps us care for the health of those who are infected, even if symptoms are mild. If we have 4 individuals unknowingly infected in a population of 100 (picture this population as those living in one student residence hall, community apartment, or the members of a fraternity or sorority), we have to sample at least 90% of the people in each of those communities in order to be reasonably confident that we’ve detected at least 3 of those 4 infected people.
In fact, the lower the proportion of infected individuals within a population, the more comprehensive our sampling program has to be to detect infection before it spreads. But if we wait until the proportion of infected individuals has grown – say to 15 in a population of 100 – then it’s too late to effectively control the spread within that population – and to others beyond that residence hall or Greek house.
Surveillance testing needs to be comprehensive – at least 90% and ideally 100% every week, within each residence hall, Greek house, apartment community – in order to identify and isolate cases.
Learn more about the science of surveillance testing, and tune into a campus testing talk and Q&A with Gibson, Weitz, and JulieAnne Williamson, Executive Director of Sustainability and Building Operations and Team Lead for Campus Surveillance Testing Operations at Georgia Tech.
Greg Gibson is a Patton Distinguished Professor in the School of Biological Sciences, Director of the Center for Integrative Genomics, and Genome Analysis core of the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience.
Joshua Weitz is a Patton Distinguished Professor in the School of Biological Sciences at Georgia Tech and Director of the Interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Quantitative Biosciences.
Julia Kubanek is Associate Dean of Research in the College of Sciences at Georgia Tech and a professor in the School of Biological Sciences.