Can Alabama College Students Skip The Next Phase Of Coronavirus Testing? Maybe.

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In addition to sentinel testing, GuideSafe also operates a phone app that tracks your exposure to COVID-19.

Miranda Fulmore, WBHM

GuideSafe, an initiative that tested 75,000 Alabama college students prior to classes, will roll out its next round of testing for the novel coronavirus.

The next phase is sentinel testing, in which up to 5% of students, faculty and staff will be randomly chosen for weekly testing. GuideSafe piloted the program at a few schools like the University of Alabama at Birmingham in late July. It will now be expanded to about 50 campuses across the state.

“What the school will be able to do [with sentinel testing] is see a snapshot for every week of what’s happening on campus,” said Bob Phillips, the executive director of GuideSafe, which was developed by a team of health informatics experts at UAB.

But do students, faculty and staff have to participate? Well, it’s complicated.

GuideSafe is recommending that campuses require participation, but ultimately, Phillips said, the decision “resides with the institution and their policies and protocols.”

Currently, at UAB sentinel testing is voluntary for most of the campus community. But some students are required to participate if they’re selected. This includes students who live on campus, participate in intramural club sports or are members of registered student organizations that hold in-person meetings with 10 or more people.

Either way, Phillips said they’re “strongly encouraging” participation even if the school isn’t requiring it.

“We really need a high level of participation,” Phillips said. “When those individuals get invited to participate, we need them to test because the best way to have a robust sample is to have a high level of participation.”

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