Fort Hays State University is offering free COVID-19 testing to all students who attend class on-campus and to all current employees who work on campus.


Scott Cason, chief communications officer for FHSU, said the Board of Regents has contracted with Clinical Reference Laboratory (CRL) in Lenexa to provide self-administered saliva test kits free of charge to those requesting them. Normally, the tests cost $129 each.


After the lab receives the kit back from an individual, test results are available online within 24 to 48 hours, according to the lab’s website.


Cason said the testing is being funded through a federal CARES grant the university received totaling $956,000.


The lab’s website states that CLR’s new "rapid response test" received "emergency use authorization" from the Food and Drug Administration in late July. The self-administered saliva tests are "more sensitive and more accurate" than the standard nasal swab tests and are "more comfortable and easier to administer," the website states.


All on-campus university employees and all students taking on-campus classes are receiving emails about the availability of the free testing, Cason said. An FHSU-issued email is required to request the test kit.


Here is how the testing and notification process works:


Individuals would log onto https://order.crlclear.com and order their self-administered test. They would fill out a form providing personal information, including address and phone number.


After receiving their test kit and watching a tutorial video, individuals would provide their saliva sample and return the kit to CRL via overnight pre-paid FedEx.


Within 24 to 48 hours, individuals would receive a text or voice notification that their test results were available online. They would then access these results using a two-step authentication process. Individuals would be able to speak with a licensed physician about their results, if they so desired.


Cason said all test results, both positive and negative, would be reported to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.


"KDHE is responsible for direct follow-up in conjunction with local Kansas county health departments. We are not asking CRL for individual results. We expect to receive aggregate data we will use to establish a baseline specific to our campus," Cason said.


Below are the university’s policies and procedures for dealing with reported positive COVID-19 tests:


"Every positive COVID-19 test case diagnosed locally is reported to the KDHE, and ultimately to the Ellis County Health Department (ECHD). The ECHD is responsible for contacting individuals who test positive, giving them instructions for isolating and collecting information on their close contacts.


"If a case is diagnosed off campus, the university is not likely to know of the infection unless the patient reports it to someone on campus. If the university receives such first-hand information, representatives from administration, student health, residential life and human resources will assess the relevance and prepare the appropriate response, which could include a notice. The notice may include the building spaces affected if it is relevant and does not compromise the confidentiality of individual patients.


"If warranted, the university could close all or part of a building for disinfection, notifying the occupants of that building in advance as appropriate."


Cason said the university Student Health Center, located in the basement of the Memorial Union, is also providing COVID-19 testing, but only for individuals exhibiting symptoms. In such cases, Health Center personnel would administer a standard nasal test, which would be sent to Quest Laboratory for results.


Those results would require a longer turn-around time, Cason said, and individuals would have to isolate themselves until the results came back. The individual’s insurance would be billed for $105 for a COVID-19 test administered by Student Health.


According to university policy, if the result of a COVID-19 test administered in Student Health were positive, "the patient’s personal health information is protected from disclosure by privacy law. The patient will be directed to isolate and to notify their close contacts advising them to quarantine.


"The patient’s physical locations in the previous 48 hours will be attempted to be identified. An assessment related to the relative risks to others within those locations will be made by representatives from administration, student health, residential life and human resources.


"A notification informing the campus community of their relative risk related to those locations may be sent out. The notice may include the building spaces affected if it is relevant and does not compromise the confidentiality of individual patients. If warranted, the university could close all or part of a building for disinfection, notifying the occupants of that building in advance as appropriate," the policy states.


Cason emphasized that retired FHSU employees and students who take all of their classes virtually are not eligible for the free COVID-19 tests provided by CRL.


According to the CRL website, the company has been in operation since 1979 and employs more than 600 people. It has facilities in North America and Europe, including the lab in Lenexa. More information about the firm is available at www.crlcorp.com.