Auburn University will be taking the reins from GuideSafe, an initiative launched by the University of Alabama at Birmingham, in conducting sentinel tests on campus for Auburn students, faculty and staff. The change in management was announced Monday afternoon in a letter from Kimberly Braxton Lloyd, associate dean of clinical affairs and outreach for the Harrison School of Pharmacy.
The University-led form of sentinel testing will be run by the Harrison School of Pharmacy through its Pharmaceutical Care Clinic. The University said the decision was made as a response to feedback from the Auburn campus community as well as its own determinations, according to Lloyd.
"By leveraging Auburn's wealth of faculty and clinical expertise, we hope to alleviate many of the concerns [the Auburn Family has] shared regarding the GuideSafe testing platform, which was operated by an externally contracted vendor," Lloyd said in the letter.
With the supervision of the University, Lloyd said the registration process will be simplified, as all students, faculty and staff will be automatically signed up to be in the sentinel testing pool. Currently, sentinel patients must create an account through Verily, a service GuideSafe uses in registration, but the University's registration will be internal and feature its "A Healthier U" branding used for COVID-related programs.
"Auburn will control eligibility files and the random testing selection process," Lloyd said. "With fewer parties involved in file management, program administrators can respond to and resolve issues promptly."
The move to independently managed testing also means the University will provide everyone who participates in sentinel testing same-day test results, according to Lloyd.
"Auburn's sentinel testing program will use rapid COVID-19 testing technology, allowing for a faster campus response," she said. "By offering same-day test results and remove third parties from the testing program, we will streamline the notification process and increase the efficiency and effectiveness of quarantine, isolation and contact tracing."
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Lloyd said that while the quick launch of the GuideSafe initiative and its Sentinel Testing Program presented the University with many challenges, it was able to develop its own best practices seeing how other Alabama colleges and universities approached testing.
"Sentinel testing is an important component of Auburn's health strategy," Lloyd said. "By managing our own sentinel testing program, we believe Auburn can better contribute to our state's COVID-19 response."
Sentinel testing will still be optional for those invited to participate, Lloyd said, but if more individuals sign up to be tested, the University will have a better idea of what transmission trends are affecting campus, Lloyd said.
"We urge [people] to be tested if [they] are randomly selected to do so, and incentives will be offered to those who participate," she said. "The adapability and cooperation demonstrated by Auburn students, faculty and staff this year ... has reinforced our confidence that moving forward independently with sentinel testing is the best choice for Auburn."
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