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OU to begin wastewater COVID-19 sampling, free voluntary testing for university housing residents in Cate Center

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Empty courtyard

The empty courtyard of the Oklahoma Memorial Union on the first day of online classes after Spring Break on March 23.

The University of Oklahoma announced Wednesday two new measures for detecting asymptomatic infections on the Norman campus in a university press release.

 A new COVID-19 testing program will start this week for residential students, as well as regular sampling of wastewater from across campus, to “provide an early warning system for positive cases” in densely populated parts of campus. This kind of testing has been successful at Utah State University and the University of Arizona, where recent detections of the virus in dorm buildings likely stopped outbreaks before they could happen. 

 According to the release, many people infected with COVID-19 begin shedding the virus in their waste days before symptoms appear. OU researchers have set up several daily wastewater sample test sites in order to identify areas experiencing higher levels of the virus so that the university can better mitigate the spread.

 “People who have been infected with COVID-19 can be contagious for two to three days before displaying symptoms of the virus,” OU Chief COVID Officer Dr. Dale Bratzler said in the release. “These new measures offer precious time – one of the most valuable and effective tools we have in slowing the spread of the virus on our campus.”

 Starting Sept. 4, residents of OU Housing will be offered free voluntary testing seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in Cate Center 3.

 These self-administered tests will be offered in collaboration with OU Medicine and will collect specimens from the front of the nose. Students will be notified of their results within 24-48 hours.

 Residential students will receive information on testing appointments in a Sept. 3 email.

Jana Hayes is a senior reporter on The Daily's news desk. She is a journalism senior and has worked at The Daily since her freshman year, having held several reporter and editor positions on both the news and enterprise desks.

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