Beginning Wednesday, Oct. 20, Drake students can now obtain a self-administered COVID-19 saliva PCR test for any reason from the Student Services Center and receive their results within 24 hours, the University announced.
The new system institutes several changes to students’ COVID-19 testing experience, and Drake Chief of Staff Nate Reagen said it will also keep test results from being shared automatically with the University.
“We completely trust and support our students telling us that they’re positive, because that’s the shift,” Reagen said. “Before, it was [the] contact tracing team telling students that they’re positive; now it’s the reverse. Students need to tell us [by emailing email@example.com].”
By making Olmsted a Test Iowa site, Drake has joined a test-at-home program run by the Iowa Department of Public Health and the State Hygenics Lab. Before giving a saliva sample and following other test instructions, test-takers should not eat, drink, smoke or chew gum for 30 minutes, according to the Test Iowa website.
Drake said the take-home kits will be available to Drake students, faculty and staff at the Student Services Center in Olmsted without requiring payment or a particular reason to get tested. Reagen said that on the first day of testing, 36 tests were dropped off by students, not including tests taken by student athletes.
Previously, Drake only let students who had been in contact with someone who had tested positive or who had symptoms get a test, Reagen said. He added that with the Test Iowa site, tests are now free for the University.
“Previously, we did not just let anybody get a test,” Reagan said. “There’s a cost to the University, and it’s actually not cheap.”
Every weekday at 2:30 p.m, Drake Public Safety will collect the returned test kits from Student Services for delivery to the Polk County Health Department, the University said in the program announcement. Students who return a test after 2:30 on Friday will have to wait until the following week, although Reagen said the University will work with students who want to get tested on the weekend.
“It would be good to have an option, even for just like an hour, to come and get tested [on a weekend],” Drake sophomore Corey Herby said.
Reagen said that in the past, test results have taken as long as 36 to 48 hours to reach students depending on when the test was taken or supply chain issues. He encouraged students to drop off their tests before Public Safety picks them up at 2:30 p.m.
“I was tested just this last week and I got my results back in less than 20 hours,” Drake sophomore Kennedy McNaul said on Oct. 20.
In a March 2021 interview, clinical sciences department chair Erik Maki said that Drake started using nasal swab tests due to a lower cost and a need for fewer volunteers. Because the new Test Iowa site shifts the cost of testing away from the University and the tests are self-administered, shifting back to a saliva test has fewer disadvantages for Drake. Both past and present tests are PCR tests, which Maki said are more reliable than their rapid test counterparts.
Students can also take advantage of Test Iowa sites near Drake that have different hours than the Olmsted site, including the Polk County Health Department and the Grace United Methodist Free Clinic.