OU Pilots Testing Program for Research Personnel Returning to Campus
NORMAN, OKLA. – The University of Oklahoma announced a pilot testing program to restart research and creative activity operations on the Norman campus. The program begins with a voluntary cohort of researchers who will complete a health screening and COVID-19 test before returning to campus.
“In this opt-in ‘Phase 1,’ all OU employees who have been approved to return to campus will undergo a PCR test for the SARS-COV-2 virus and complete health screenings developed by physicians at the OU Health Sciences Center,” OU Vice President for Research and Partnerships Tomás Díaz de la Rubia said. “Employees will undergo further testing and contact tracing during the summer, and those found to be positive for the virus will be asked to quarantine. Throughout the pilot program, our first priority is to ensure the public health of our community and the well-being of our students, faculty and staff.”
In a May 6 memo, Díaz de la Rubia introduced a framework for a phased restart of nonessential research and creative activities on the Norman campus. The first phase of this program implements rigorous requirements for physical distancing, wearing of personal protective equipment at all times, including face masks, and other CDC-recommended safety measures.
Díaz de la Rubia says the program aims to quickly identify and respond to potential spikes of COVID-19 cases on campus and inform university leadership on how best to prepare for a return to full operations in the fall.
Led by Díaz de la Rubia, the first group will be tested starting on May 14. Those who test negative for the virus will be able to return to on-campus work and some field research beginning May 20. PCR tests will be conducted at IMMYLabs, a Norman-based medical testing and diagnostics lab that has successfully conducted more than 4,000 PCR tests for the state of Oklahoma since the start of the pandemic.
“We are honored to partner with the University of Oklahoma in the effort to provide testing for possible COVID-19 infections,” said Sean Bauman, Ph.D., president and CEO of IMMY. “Our entire team has been working extremely hard to scale up our capacity and we are confident in our ability to serve our community in this way.”
In addition to research personnel, employees from OU’s Division of University Operations returned to campus May 11 to begin implementing the university’s Clean and Green program, which utilizes hospital-grade cleaning protocols to ensure the highest standards of hygiene and facility modifications to support current COVID-19 prevention best practices. Operations department personnel are completing the same health screening questionnaire as research personnel prior to returning to campus and will participate in other aspects of the pilot program during the summer.
Throughout the summer, OU officials, led by Díaz de la Rubia, will monitor the pilot program’s progress and modify protocols as appropriate as the university prepares for a full reopening of the Norman campus in the fall.