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Campus Health Center - Wayne State University

The goal of the Public Health Subcommittee of the Wayne State University Restart Committee is to present a strategy for testing, symptom monitoring, mitigation and contact tracing that supports a safe return to campus based on the best science available in a rapidly changing environment. We also recognize that this strategy must be sustainable over a long — potentially three-year — period of time and that our strategy may change with new information.

In anticipation of returning to campus and the new academic year, many members of the campus community have asked questions about testing. As this can be both an area of concern and confusion, this note is intended to provide information and guidance. 

As described by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are two kinds of tests available for COVID-19: viral tests and antibody tests.

  • A viral test (often called a PCR or swab test) is intended to show whether a person currently is infected with COVID-19. It can only tell a person — on the specific day of the test — whether they are infected. The current viral tests, however, have limitations. Estimates of “false negatives” (i.e., when a person actually infected with COVID-19 tests negative) range as high as 30-40%, and a person who is infected can test negative one day and positive the next. Many individuals who were “probable” COVID-19 cases have had negative tests. These tests serve an important function, but they are not without limitations.
  • An antibody test is intended to show if a person was previously infected with COVID-19. It, too, has limitations, since it can take one to three weeks after infection to make antibodies. The science remains unclear as to whether having antibodies to the virus can protect someone from getting infected with the virus again, or how long that protection might last.

We have received many inquiries regarding whether we are recommending testing of all members of the WSU community who will be on campus. Universal testing currently is not recommended by the CDC1 or public health authorities in Michigan.2 A single test may provide a false sense of security for an individual, and also provides information limited to one point in time. For a safe return to campus, we recommend that testing be conducted in a manner consistent with the recommendations of the CDC and the American College Health Association. We do not recommend universal viral or antibody testing at this time.

At Wayne State, we will have testing available through the Campus Health Center for all individuals who are symptomatic based on CDC criteria. We will also conduct thorough case investigations and contact tracing of close contacts.We will also conduct periodic testing for all individuals living in campus housing because they may be more likely to have prolonged, close exposure to others. Individuals on campus who are not symptomatic but would like to be tested are able to find access to testing sites at Michigan COVID-19 Test Finder.

Until a safe, effective vaccine is widely available or effective treatment is discovered, our best strategies for preventing illness and reducing spread of the coronavirus rely on our own behavior. Wearing a face covering at all times in public places significantly reduces transmission and is the best method for reducing transmission by those who have no symptoms.  Social distancing, careful and frequent handwashing, and avoiding touching of the face are also important components of our strategy. Daily use of the Campus Daily Screener will also help to identify those who may be ill and will be followed by careful contact tracing and quarantine where necessary.

Very importantly, in early fall, we strongly recommend that all members of the university community obtain an influenza vaccine. There are many benefits from flu vaccination and preventing flu is always important, but in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s even more important to do everything possible to reduce illnesses and preserve scarce health care resources.

Individuals with questions may submit them on the Wayne State University coronavirus website.


  1. CDC, Serology Surveillance Strategy (May 27, 2020). Accessed at:
  2. MDHHS, COVID-19 Test Finder,(may4, 2020). Accessed at:,9753,7-406-98189---,00.html
  3. Scientific brief from WHO, "Immunity passports" in the context of COVID-19 (April 24, 2020). Accessed at:
  4. CDC Contact Tracing Guidelines, (June 4, 2020). Accessed at:
  5. Influenza (Flu), (April 28, 2020). Accessed at: