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University of Iowa to offer COVID-19 testing pilot to residence assistants

'RAs provide a critical campus function'

The Old Capitol Building and Jessup Hall (left) on the Pentacrest on campus of the University of Iowa in Iowa City on We
The Old Capitol Building and Jessup Hall (left) on the Pentacrest on campus of the University of Iowa in Iowa City on Wednesday, April 30, 2014. (The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — As COVID-19 cases tick up across the campus and state, the University of Iowa on Wednesday announced it’s rolling out a pilot program to offer additional testing options for “student employees whose positions require some level of socially distanced, face-to-face interactions.”

The program, which begins this month, will offer voluntary coronavirus testing to residence assistants in the housing and dining system, a group that has aired grievances around workplace conditions and safety in open letters and in the media.

The university is starting with that select student employee group “to determine how best to manage the testing appointments and process,” according to a campus communication that went out Wednesday.

If the program proves successful and capable of being scaled up, UI officials said they’ll consider expanding it to other student-worker groups.

“RAs provide a critical campus function, by advising, supporting, and living alongside other UI students in the residence halls,” according to the UI communication.

UI administrators did not require the thousands of students who moved into its residence halls in August to take a precautionary COVID-19 test — as at Iowa State University, which identified 175 cases through the process.

The university offers on-campus testing to students, faculty, and staff who have COVID-19 symptoms or have a confirmed close contact with someone infected by the virus. It has not offered asymptomatic, non-contact-related testing.

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Per the new program operated out of Student Health, testing will be free and employ the PCR nasal swab.

Iowa State University last month announced it was beginning random testing of select students and rewarding them for compliance with gift cards. Via that program, ISU randomly chose undergraduate, graduate and professional students for asymptomatic testing via email or text message that outlined instructions for testing at Johnny’s in Hilton Coliseum.

Iowa State has not yet made public participation or testing results from that program.

But all three of Iowa’s universities have reported recent COVID-case increases on campus.

The UI on Wednesday reported 34 new student cases and 13 new employee cases in two days — marking the largest two-day employee increase to date and bringing the campus total since Aug. 18 to 2,350.

Comments: (319) 339-3158; vanessa.miller@thegazette.com

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