B.C. university launches COVID-19 rapid test pilot project for asymptomatic students

Students living on campus at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby and some varsity athletes will now be able to take part in a COVID-19 rapid test pilot project.

Students who are not experiencing symptoms of the virus can book appointments online to get tested, and are being encouraged to get screened twice a week.

The university said the groups being invited were selected based on a number of factors, including recommendations from the BC Centre for Disease Control to prioritize testing for people living in congregate housing, and a decision to include athletes from certain teams who may be at higher risk. SFU added even those with a first vaccination may still carry the virus, and could benefit from screening.

The test itself involves a nasal swab administered by a health-care professional, which is not as deep as the swab taken during the standard diagnostic test for COVID-19. Rapid test results are typically available in about 15 minutes. If anyone tests positive, a diagnostic test will be performed on site and sent away for analysis.

SFU said the pilot project will help determine the feasibility of a wider screening approach if needed in the future, and provide “an extra layer of protection” for the more than 420 students living on campus, or taking part in sports with a higher risk of contact. The project is running until July 30.

Earlier this year, the University of British Columbia also conducted a pilot project involving rapid testing, which ended up identifying 25 positive COVID-19 cases out of just over 1,000 asymptomatic students tested. The university is now in the midst of a clinical trial looking at the feasibility of self-administered rapid tests, which is running until Aug. 20.