COVID-19 departure screening and testing

In advance of fall break, MSU is offering free, voluntary saliva-based departure screening and testing Nov. 15-22 for on- and off-campus students, as well as faculty and staff. MSU strongly encourages students, faculty and staff who are traveling to sign up on the program registration link.

Please note this is not a diagnostic test, so you will receive a recommendation to seek clinical confirmation testing if COVID-19 is detected in your sample.

Due to limited lab capacity, testing dates may fill up, so please sign up as soon as possible.

Remember, any form of testing for COVID-19 only indicates whether or not the virus was detected in the specimen collected from you on that day. A negative test never completely rules out COVID-19, especially early in the infection. This is not unique to COVID-19 but is a limitation of diagnostic tests for many viral infections. A negative test never excludes the possibility that infection was acquired after the specimen was collected.

On the other hand, most people with COVID-19 will have a positive test for the virus at the time symptoms develop. In general, a positive test is very reliable; “false positive” tests are uncommon.

It is vital to always stay vigilant and continue to practice safe behaviors, regardless of test results, such as:

  • Continue preventive health measures, including wearing a face mask, maintaining physical distancing, washing your hands frequently and avoiding large gatherings.
  • Practice an enhanced physical distancing period for 14 days before you leave East Lansing.
  • Quarantine for 14 days upon arrival at your destination.

How to participate:

  1. Register and select a date to turn in your sample.
  2. Before your scheduled sample drop-off day, pick-up a kit at one of the Spartan Spit Kit locations. Simply show your registration confirmation email to the attendant to receive a kit.
  3. Prepare your saliva sample (directions on the kit or watch the video). Don’t eat, drink, smoke/vape or chew gum for 30 minutes beforehand.
  4. Log your sample using the URL or QR code on the box.
  5. Drop your sample at one of the Spartan Spit Kit locations.
  6. Participants will receive an text alert asking you to check your email 36-48 hours later.

Please review the questions below for more information.

  • Why should I participate in departure screening and testing?

    COVID-19 is on the rise in Michigan and the state has recorded a record number of positive cases due, in part, to small indoor gatherings without face coverings. Testing can be an important element in mitigating the spread of COVID-19. It’s important for you to know your status before leaving East Lansing to help reduce the likelihood of bringing the virus to your home community.

    Remember, any form of testing reflects your COVID-19 status at the time your sample was collected, that's why it’s vital to stay vigilant and continue to practice safe behaviors before and after traveling.

  • Who can sign up to participate?

    MSU is prioritizing departure screening and testing for students in the East Lansing area who are traveling for fall break. There is availability though for faculty and staff. Screening will take place Nov. 15-22.

  • What date should I select? How long does it take for results?

    Participants will receive a recommendation via email in 36-48 hours, so you’ll want to select a date that is at least three days before you travel. That will ensure you are notified before you leave East Lansing if you are recommended for clinical testing.

    If you receive a recommendation for a confirmatory diagnostic test, the university will continue to provide walk-up clinical testing at Spartan Stadium, as well as testing by appointment for those who are symptomatic at Olin Health Center.

  • How do I provide a sample?

    The steps to participate are simple:

    1. Select a date for testing on the program registration link.
    2. After you get an email confirming your enrollment, visit the program website to identify a location to pick up a Spartan Spit Kit, collect your sample and drop it off on the date you selected.
    3. Receive a notification alert with a recommendation on whether you need a clinical confirmation test for COVID-19.

    The university will continue to provide walk-up clinical testing at Spartan Stadium and testing by appointment for those who are symptomatic at Olin Health Center, if those options are more convenient for you.

  • What if I can’t provide a sample on the day I selected?

    If you need to change your day, open the program registration link again. The registration will default to your current selection. Simply change your selection date and complete (arrow through) the survey and it will update to the new date. Keep in mind that dates will fill quickly and may not be available if you need to change it.

  • I have symptoms of COVID-19 — should I participate in departure screening and testing?

    No. If you have symptoms of COVID-19, or if you have had contact with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19, you should get a clinical diagnostic test like those provided at Spartan Stadium or one of the testing sites listed on the state of Michigan’s website.

  • I have tested positive for COVID-19 — should I participate in departure testing?

    If you have tested positive for COVID-19 within the last three months, you should not participate in the saliva test because evidence to date suggests that reinfection does not occur within this time window.

  • I currently get tested through MSU’s Early Detection Program — do I need to sign up for departure testing?

    MSU paused the COVID-19 Early Detection Program so the laboratory can focus on departure screening and testing for students. If you are enrolled in the program, the last day for sample collection is Nov. 11. And, if you are a student, you will need to register for departure screening and testing at the program’s website.

    After departure screening is completed, the COVID-19 Early Detection Program will reopen on Nov. 30 for faculty, staff and students who still wish to volunteer. If you are not on campus in December, please disregard any automated messages you receive related to dropping off a sample.

  • What should I do if I’m recommended for a clinical COVID-19 test?

    If you receive a recommendation for clinical testing, that means COVID-19 was detected in your sample and you should immediately seek a clinical diagnostic test and self-isolate.

    • Please consider the result as a symptomatic indicator when speaking to a health care provider.
    • Students should contact the MSU COVID-19 Triage Line at 855-958-2678 or contact their health care provider to seek clinical diagnostic testing.
    • Self-isolation is recommended. 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.
  • Does it cost to participate in the program? Do you charge insurance?

    It’s free to participate in the departure testing and we do not collect insurance information or issue bills to participants. If you get a clinical test at Spartan Stadium, you will need a photo ID and insurance card.

  • How does the pooling work? And, since samples are pooled, will everyone in the pool need to get a clinical test if COVID-19 is detected?

    No one will be quarantined by “association” in a pool. The pooling process does not require “poolmates” 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. 

  • What will you do with my results?

    Departure testing is being offered to current students as a way for them to learn their current health status and thus mitigate the spread of COVID-19 when they depart campus for fall break. The data will not be shared or used for any research study.

  • If you test my saliva for COVID-19, why would I need to get a clinical test?

    Because MSU’s program falls under the federal definition of “surveillance testing,” the program cannot inform you as to whether you have COVID-19. That can only be done by a doctor utilizing a test run at a licensed clinical laboratory. However, if you receive a recommendation to seek a clinical test, you should follow up by getting a confirmatory test and self-isolate as if you have COVID-19.

  • Is MSU’s COVID-19 saliva test as good as the nasal swab test?

    The saliva test is highly specific and sensitive, and it is much easier and uses less personal protective equipment to collect saliva samples at home as compared to nasopharyngeal swabs conducted by professionals.

  • If it is recommended that I get a clinical test, and that test is positive, do I have to report that information to MSU?

    Our ability to control widespread infection across the Spartan community would be helped if you report the information to MSU, but you are not obligated to report.