Oregon State University will extend its ongoing TRACE-COVID-19 project to support safer and healthier environments for its students, faculty and staff by providing weekly prevalence testing during fall term on OSU’s campuses, including at the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport.
TRACE-OSU will launch, Monday, Sept. 28 and will include weekly random prevalence testing of approximately 1,000 OSU community members. In addition, OSU researchers will conduct wastewater testing — twice each week in Newport.
The testing will help determine the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, and the data collected will inform planning and response by university leaders and county health officials. Weekly prevalence results will be posted on the OSU TRACE website — trace.oregonstate.edu — beginning the week of Oct. 5.
“Weekly prevalence testing within OSU campuses in Corvallis and Bend and at HMSC are among the many ways that Oregon State University is contributing to a safer and healthier university community and communities in Corvallis, Bend and Newport,” said Steve Clark, vice president for university relations and marketing. “TRACE-OSU will provide invaluable public health information. Weekly prevalence results should inform OSU students and employees and community members to either continue or increase their own personal and public health measures to reduce the risk and spread of COVID-19.”
“The number of people who are infected in a population provides a leading indicator of how fast the number of cases will grow if not contained,” said Benjamin Dalziel, TRACE director and assistant professor in the College of Science. “Knowing prevalence helps determine what types of public health measures are required at a particular time.”
With TRACE-OSU, being tested for the novel coronavirus is voluntary but encouraged by the university. All current students, faculty and staff residing in Newport are invited to register for possible testing.
Dalziel said that each week during fall term, a representative group of students, faculty and staff will be selected at random from the registration pool and invited to be tested at an on-campus station. Two testing locations will be available at the Hatfield Marine Science Center.
Under the guidance of TRACE staff, participants will provide a self-administered nasal swab to be analyzed with an FDA-approved test. Sampling will occur continuously during fall term and through the entire academic year, if merited by public health conditions.
Participants will be sent their results by secure email. Everyone’s personal information is safeguarded and not shared with anyone other than appropriate public health officials.
“All testing locations will be arranged to maximize participant safety through social distancing, airflow and the number of sampling stations available,” said TRACE project co-leader Jeff Bethel, associate professor in the OSU College of Public Health and Human Sciences.
For the wastewater part of TRACE-OSU, led by Tyler Radniecki of the OSU College of Engineering, researchers will be sampling wastewater from locations at the Hatfield Marine Science Center. These samples will also be analyzed weekly during fall term. All samples will be analyzed for genetic evidence of the virus, and trends will be monitored to determine whether the viral signal in wastewater is getting stronger, weaker or staying the same.
If SARS-CoV-2 is detected downstream of any student housing facility, Oregon State may ask everyone in the facility to be individually tested. Results from the wastewater testing will be reported to county health departments and the Oregon Health Authority.