Starting Feb. 1, the University of Wyoming will offer a limited number of free COVID-19 diagnostic tests to members of the public who aren’t displaying symptoms of the infection.
The saliva-based tests, developed for the university’s surveillance testing program for students and employees, are processed by UW’s Wyoming State Veterinary Laboratory and typically produce results within 24 hours. They’re being offered as a service to the Albany County community, particularly those who are uninsured or unable to afford COVID-19 tests from other providers.
“From the beginning, we have wanted to be able to provide COVID-19 testing as a public service. Thanks to the great work of our vet med lab in developing our own in-house program, I am pleased to say that we are now able to make this testing available to members of our local community,” UW President Ed Seidel says. “Following the lead of the governor’s office and state Department of Health in providing free testing through Vault Health to the people of Wyoming, we’re offering these locally processed tests to help our local community navigate this pandemic.”
Starting Feb. 1, UW is offering to test up to 375 asymptomatic members of the public per week on a first-come, first-served basis. Those who want to be tested must sign up for appointments by going online to www.uwyo.edu/alerts/covid-19/public-testing. Tests will be administered from 3-4:30 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. Those who sign up will see information directing them to a specific location; they’ll receive their results online.
People must be age 8 or older to take the test, which involves producing a small saliva sample through a straw into a test tube. Minor children may be assisted by a parent or legal guardian in the collection process; however, those who are unable to spit or follow testing instructions should seek other testing alternatives.
UW is collaborating with a number of organizations to notify the public about the testing availability, including Albany County School District 1; Laramie Interfaith; Laramie Main Street Alliance; Laramie Chamber Business Alliance; Laramie’s Downtown Clinic; and UW’s Family Medicine Residency Centers.
Public health experts say testing is essential in helping slow the spread of COVID-19 by identifying those who have the virus, including close contacts of people documented with the infection, and enabling treatment or isolation. Testing also is crucial to learn more about how the virus spreads and how prevalent it remains in a given community.
UW’s COVID-19 test is part of the Shield program developed by the University of Illinois. It’s an RT-PCR test, which detects the virus’s genetic material. All UW students and employees who spend time on campus are required to take the test — undergraduates twice per week and others once per week.
“We hope members of the public will take advantage of this test availability to help them make informed decisions related to COVID-19,” Seidel says. “Combined with efforts to widely administer vaccines and a continued commitment to physical distancing, wearing of masks and hygiene measures, testing is a tool that will help us emerge from the pandemic as quickly as possible.”