Frequently Asked Questions
Specific Information for Summer 2021
Note: As of June 28, 2021, undergraduate students are no longer required to participate, but are encouraged to continue on a volunteer basis. Medical/professional students will hear from their respective colleges regarding their need to participate, since some healthcare settings continue to have restrictions.
Undergraduate students currently flagged as "mandatory" in the system will be automatically changed to "volunteer" during the week of July 5.
Volunteers who no longer wish to participate in EDP, may opt-out of the program by changing the question "I agree to participate..." from Yes to No on the program registration form.
What is the COVID-19 Early Detection Program?
The COVID-19 Early Detection Program is a saliva-based testing initiative initially designed to identify the presence of COVID-19 in people who are asymptomatic, or not showing symptoms. By collecting saliva samples on a regular basis from members of the MSU campus community, we can monitor for the presence of infection and help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. A new campus laboratory, established for this purpose, analyzes the samples and provides information to the university, enabling data-driven decisions about campus spaces.
Participation in the program is voluntary, except for some medical students specified by your college or department (those students will hear directly from their college point of contact). All members of the MSU campus community, including off-campus students, faculty and staff, are encouraged to voluntarily participate in the program for weekly COVID-19 testing.
Why should I participate?
Testing can be an important element in mitigating the spread of COVID-19. Spartans protect each other - the more people who volunteer as part of the COVID-19 Early Detection Program, the better MSU will be able to detect outbreaks. If fewer people participate, our ability to detect outbreaks will be reduced.
It’s also important to continue following recommended health and safety practices to help minimize transmission, including wearing a face mask, maintaining physical distancing, washing your hands frequently and avoiding large gatherings if unvaccinated.
If I have already received the first (or both) doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, should I participate?
Yes, volunteers can continue their participation even after receiving the vaccine.
What is the testing process?
Whether you are a mandatory or voluntary participant, the steps to participate are the same:
- Register for the program and select a day for testing. Remember, this is the day you’ll be expected to provide weekly samples throughout the semester. Don’t worry; we’ll send you email reminders.
- After you get an email confirming your enrollment, visit the locations page on program website to identify a location to pick up a Spartan Spit Kit.
- Collect your sample and drop it off at a designated drop site on the day you selected.
- Receive a notification alert to view your results on Spartan Health Check.
Participants will receive reminders via text and email to provide a sample on your chosen day each week. There are several convenient kit pick-up and sample drop-off locations on campus, including three drive-thru sites. New off-campus locations are also being investigated for added convenience.
Is there a cost to participate in the program?
There is no cost for any current students, faculty or staff at MSU.
Is this program available to those who don’t work or attend MSU?
Currently, the program is not available to people who are not affiliated with MSU.
I don’t work at MSU, but can I pay to participate?
Sorry, no. This program is not open to those who are not connected to MSU at this time.
Do you charge insurance?
It’s free to participate, and we do not collect insurance information or issue bills to participants. If you are symptomatic and get a test at Spartan Stadium, you will need a photo ID and insurance card.
Does Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) apply to my information generated in the Early Detection Program?
No. The definition of Protected Health Information under HIPAA specifically excludes records that are covered under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). FERPA is the law that protects student records at the University. The Early Detection Program complies with FERPA.
Providing a Sample
How do I provide a sample?
How often will I be asked to provide a sample?
Participants will be tested weekly. If outbreaks occur in residential living areas, testing may temporarily increase to several times per week. The virus has demonstrated an amazing capacity for transmission, and we need to be vigilant to help ensure the safety of our campus and community.
What if I can’t provide a sample on my scheduled day?
We ask you to schedule your sample on a specific day to ensure we don’t overburden the laboratory. If you cannot provide a sample on your assigned day, please do so as soon as possible. For the mandatory participants, if you go past seven days, your risk level on Spartan Health Check will be red and you will not be able to participate in on-campus activities.
Note: Samples dropped before 1 p.m. Sunday through Thursday will typically receive results by 9 p.m. the following day. Depositing a sample after 1 p.m. will delay processing by a full day, but in most cases, results will be available on Spartan Health Check within 36-48 hours.
What if I need to change my day?
If you need to adjust your weekly day going forward, please go back into the registration form and select a new day.
My sample tube already has some liquid and tiny beads in it. Is that right?
Yes, the liquid and beads are the RNA Shield™ (preservative) that mixes with your sample to prepare it for transport to the lab. Please be sure to follow the instructions on the outside of the kit carefully (or watch the video). Do NOT drink or swallow the solution as it can be harmful if ingested and contact with the solution can cause irritation to the skin and eyes. Learn more by reading the product safety information.
I can't get the QR code on the kit box to work. How do I register my sample?
The direct URL to the sample collection survey is printed just above the QR code on the box. The direct link is https://go.msu.edu/spartan-spit-sample.
I forgot to log my sample before I dropped it off. What should I do?
We know these things happen! Unfortunately, the lab won't be able to provide any results from your sample if you didn't log the vial number in advance. It's very important to use the QR code on the box and complete the short survey to register your sample. You should pick up another kit and provide a new sample right away so you don't get off schedule. And remember, if the QR code on the kit box doesn't work or you don't have a QR reader on your phone, you can simply go to https://go.msu.edu/spartan-spit-sample directly.
If I have symptoms of COVID-19, should I participate in the program?
If you have symptoms of COVID-19 or believe you have been exposed to someone who is positive for COVID-19, please contact the MSU COVID-19 Triage Line at 855-958-2678 right away. Triage will advise you on next steps which may include additional testing via the Early Detection Program or through another testing provider.
You can check the Michigan Testing Site Finder to find a location to seek clinical diagnostic testing.
I have tested positive for COVID-19 — should I continue to participate in weekly testing?
Evidence to date suggests that reinfection is extremely rare within 90 days following a COVID-19 infection, but continued participation in the program following an infection is allowed.
About the Test
What kind of test is this?
We test for the SARS-CoV-2 virus using polymerase chain reaction technology. We are specifically using the Thermo-Fisher TaqPath COVID-19 Assay.
Is MSU’s COVID-19 saliva test as good as a nasal swab test?
The saliva test is highly specific and sensitive and is comparable to the nasopharyngeal swab test. Additionally, it is much easier and uses less PPE to collect saliva samples at home as compared to nasopharyngeal swabs conducted by professionals.
How does pooling work? And, since samples are pooled, will everyone need to get tested individually if COVID-19 is detected in the pool?
No one will be quarantined by their association with a pool. The pooling process does not require “pool mates” to be quarantined. Each person is placed in two pools, and they are the only person unique to those two pools. Both pools must indicate as positive for the individual to be considered positive. If you are in only one pool that lights up and your other pool is negative, that means someone else in the first pool was responsible for the pool’s positivity.
Additionally, any positive we find through the process above is currently also being checked secondarily as an individual sample. This means that if we suspect you are positive, we run your sample twice before letting you know the results.
What happens to my sample after the test is run?
After your saliva sample is analyzed for the COVID-19 virus, it will be discarded and not used for any other purpose.
How long will it take for me to receive results?
If you drop off your sample before 1 p.m. on your scheduled day, you should receive results around 9 p.m. the next day.
PLEASE NOTE: Beginning August 1, 2021, the daily sample cut-off time will be 10 a.m. rather than 1 p.m.
Be sure to visit Spartan Health Check. The system will indicate where your sample is in the process and may have results posted even before you receive a text or email alert. For questions on Spartan Health Check (i.e. what does red or yellow mean, why am I still showing red, etc.) visit the Spartan Health Check overview page or view these short, how-to videos.
Possible reasons for late results:
- Sample dropped off after 1 p.m. (missed collection time).
- Weekend drop off (presently, anything dropped after 1 p.m. Friday will not get results until Monday night). NOTE: As of May 14, 2021, the lab will not process on Fridays, therefore the weekend cutoff will be Thursday at 1 p.m.)
- Email forwarding. If your result notification is forwarded to another email account, there may be delays.
- Sample was not logged in by the participant. If you don't log the number on your sample vial before you drop it off, the lab has no way to connect the results to you.
- Incorrect barcode logged in by participant.
- Sample missing the barcode or barcode damaged.
- Sample logged by participant after results have gone out.
- Sample deposited incorrectly (was not deposited into the correct bin/put in a trash can by mistake, sample not completely put in bin and it fell out).
- Lab delays (should only be a few hours off if they occur).
- Network issues preventing upload of results and messaging.
What are the possible results?
Participants will receive a text and an email alerting them to visit Spartan Health Check to view their status.
Possible results include:
- NO ACTION REQUIRED (not recommended for further clinical assessment - please be sure to provide a sample again within 7 days)
- POSITIVE (the University Physician or Triage Team will reach out to those who receive a positive result - you do NOT need a confirming test)
- REJECTED (due to quality issues with the sample)
Spartan Health Check says that my sample was REJECTED. Why is that and now what do I do?
If I receive a dose of the vaccine, is there any possibility of a "false" positive result?
No, receiving the vaccine will not cause a positive test in the Early Detection Program (EDP). The EDP test identifies specific parts of the COVID-19 viral genetic material, which are not in the vaccine. A positive test shortly after receiving a vaccine is likely due to actual infection, which would not be a false positive. If you receive a positive result from EDP testing, you will be contacted by the MSU Triage line for assistance and follow up.
What will you do with my results?
If you are positive for COVID-19, your data will be shared with the University Physician and, as appropriate, other university officials, as well as Ingham County and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
Does the EDP testing screen for the new variants?
With the emergence of new SARS-CoV-2 variants in Michigan and their possible impact to public health, MSU is partnering with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Bureau of Laboratories (MDHHS) to carry out variant surveillance. Virus RNA preparations from positive Early Detection Program samples will be sent to the MDHHS for complete sequence analysis. Only whole genome sequencing will be performed on the samples to monitor the emergence and spread of variants that may impact community and campus health. No further analyses will be performed with the samples.
What should I do if my test shows I’m COVID-19 positive?
If you receive a positive result, that means the virus that causes COVID-19 was detected in your sample, and you should immediately isolate and contact the MSU COVID-19 Triage Line at 855-958-2678. Individuals in self-isolation should stay home and avoid contact with other members of the household by staying in a specific room or area and using a separate bathroom, if available. For more information, check out the MSU COVID-19 information page.