The purpose of the surveillance testing, paid for by the South Dakota Department of Health, is to determine the background rate of COVID-19 and to identify where those cases are located on USD’s Vermillion campus.

The university has divided the campus population into cohorts of individuals who tend to spend time together, whether in a specific residence hall or academic program. A percentage of individuals from each cohort will be tested weekly.

USD will randomly select individuals from each cohort on a weekly basis and invite them to be tested. There is no cost to the individual or to the individual’s insurance and the testing is voluntary. Analysis will be performed at Sanford’s Sioux Falls laboratory, and the results will be forwarded to USD as well as to the Department of Health.

“We know that we will see increased numbers of COVID-19 cases as a result of this enhanced testing,” said Kevin O’Kelley assistant vice president of research compliance and the head of USD’s COVID-19 Case Management Team. “However, more data means we can be more proactive and curb the spread of COVID-19 faster. Our goal is to identify clusters, so we can limit the spread, prevent further surges and remain on campus until Thanksgiving.”

According to the American Medical Association, nearly 40-45% of all COVID-19 infections are asymptomatic, and despite showing no signs of symptoms, these individuals are still contagious.

“We urge all students, faculty and staff to volunteer to get tested if randomly selected,” O’Kelley said. “Along with prevention measures like handwashing, wearing face coverings practicing social distancing, testing is a key tool in preventing the spread of COVID-19 in our community. We appreciate everyone who is doing their part to #ProtectThePack.”

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