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Thursday, May 13, 2021

Campus

COVID-19 testing kiosk could help control coronavirus spread on campus


The University has partnered with coronavirus testing company Curative to open an on-campus COVID-19 testing kiosk, scheduled to begin operations Jan. 20, which could help detect asymptomatic infections and control coronavirus spread in the UH community. 

The site will be open in front of the Student Center Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. by appointment only.

There are approximately 270 appointments available each day, said Stephen Spann, dean of the UH College of Medicine. UH community members can receive a no-cost, self-swab saliva COVID-19 test with the presentation of their UH identification card. 

The testing kiosk marks a departure from the University’s previous testing plan, in which nasal swab tests were administered at the UH Health Center to certain community members.

Open to all students, faculty and staff regardless of whether they have symptoms, the kiosk will expand accessibility to COVID-19 testing on campus. 

“We may find some asymptomatic infections that wouldn’t have been diagnosed otherwise because currently, we’re only testing folks that are symptomatic or have been exposed,” Spann said. 

Spann theorizes that the identification and isolation of people with asymptomatic coronavirus infections could assist in controlling the pandemic. He said a high percentage of infections, especially among young people, could be asymptomatic. 

The testing kiosk could help the University to keep an accurate count of the number of coronavirus cases among UH community members by identifying asymptomatic infections. 

“The theory is that if you detect asymptomatic infections, those people can be isolated,” Spann said. “You can trace their contacts, so you’re more likely to detect other people who are at risk of becoming infected so you have better control of the pandemic.”

“You can hopefully reduce the number of infections transmitted. We think that as many as 50 percent of infections are asymptomatic. This is particularly true in younger people,” Spann added.

For some UH students, the availability of testing at the kiosk could encourage them to get tested more regularly. 

Computer science graduate student Michael Meskhi was previously tested for COVID-19 on campus and would get tested more often with the testing kiosk. 

“I would say if you feel you might have been exposed to (COVID-19), please go ahead and reach out to the UH clinic to get yourself tested ASAP,” Meskhi said. “There’s very little to worry about and the only place in Houston where testing for (COVID-19) is pleasant rather than nerve-wracking.” 

Computer engineering technology Anthony Gamble said avenues for regular testing would encourage him to have frequent COVID-19 tests. 

“Currently, I don’t get tested regularly, but people extremely close to me do. If I had a way to get tested regularly, I would absolutely get tested, at least weekly,” Gamble said. “The more people we test, the easier it is to control the spread and prevent (spreading) the virus to our loved ones.” 

For more of The Cougar’s coronavirus coverage, click here.

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