Sentinel testing launches with students, expands to employees this week

Published: September 14, 2020
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The GuideSafe Sentinel Testing program has launched at Auburn University, with students having participated in a pilot phase this past week that showed a 6.4 percent positivity rate among a random sampling of those chosen for the testing.

The first week of the testing solely focused on students, but starting this week Auburn employees also will be included in the random tests on a voluntary basis.

“Our target each week is to test 2.5 percent of eligible students and employees from this week going forward,” said Kimberly Braxton Lloyd, who is leading the effort and is an associate dean for clinical affairs and outreach in Auburn’s Harrison School of Pharmacy.

For the pilot phase, Braxton Lloyd said 2.5 percent of the eligible student population agreed to be tested and scheduled an appointment.

“We had 2.2 percent show up for the test. So, it was a very good response rate,” she said. “We were pleased with it, and we get results within 48 hours after the test is conducted. We send the samples to UAB (the University of Alabama at Birmingham) for analysis. They send the results back within 48 hours, and the individuals that were tested get those results and the information on what to do.”

Braxton Lloyd said officials are able to provide contact tracing and supply needed information to individuals who test positive. The Sentinel tests are a continuation of the statewide GuideSafe initiative—which included separate re-entry testing of students back in August in the leadup to their return to campus.

“Now, we’re continuing that effort by conducting random tests of people who have no symptoms, both employees and students, every week in order to monitor the infection rate on campus,” Braxton Lloyd said. “It’s part of our Auburn University’s ‘A Healthier U’ safety plan in order to make sure that we’re making the right interventions in order to keep our campus safe.”

She further explained that “we’re selecting employees randomly and also students from different areas of campus that live in different areas or have classes within a certain area. We can focus in that area and test more individuals so that we can detect any trends in positivity rate and cases in that environment, and make further intervention in order to control the spread on campus. So, it’s really an early detection mechanism we can use to really monitor what’s going on within our community.”

Braxton Lloyd said she hopes all who are selected for the testing will participate as a way to give back to their community. And an added bonus is getting a free COVID-19 test and a determination on your status involving COVID-19.

“So, it’s good for the university, for the community and for the individual personally,” she said.

Those selected for the test should know that the test involves a short nasal swab.

“We are using a shorter nasal swab that goes into the nasal cavity, just midway, and it is self-administered,” she said. “It’s not painful like some of the more invasive swabbing techniques.”

Auburn student Will Kendrick, who was among those who took the test this past week, said it was a painless and easy process, and he encouraged others to do their part in the effort.

“It didn’t take me any time at all,” Kendrick said. “It provided peace of mind to know I had not been exposed and had not contracted coronavirus. I think it’s important that we all try to stay a little more responsible and accountable.”

Braxton Lloyd said that starting this week officials with the Sentinel Testing program are hoping to test between 800 and 1,000 people each week.

“We’re in need of meeting that level of sampling so that we can get the best information for the campus, and it’s really important that everybody participates if they’re invited.”

Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for its commitment to world-class scholarship, interdisciplinary research with an elite, top-tier Carnegie R1 classification, life-changing outreach with Carnegie’s Community Engagement designation and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 30,000 students, and its faculty and research partners collaborate to develop and deliver meaningful scholarship, science and technology-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs. Auburn’s commitment to active student engagement, professional success and public/private partnership drives a growing reputation for outreach and extension that delivers broad economic, health and societal impact.