Written by: Jaymee Salisi, News Writer

On June 8, 2021, SFU launched a COVID-19 rapid screening pilot project to operate on Tuesdays and Fridays for eight weeks. Taking place on the Burnaby campus, the pilot is open to students living in residence and varsity athletes from invited teams. These groups were chosen for being contained within the SFU community and having regular access to the screening sites.

Using a nasal swab, the screening process provides participants with results in about 15 minutes. The pilot is meant to give extra protection to students living with a higher risk of contracting COVID-19. It will also determine the likelihood of the university opening up the screening system to more people in the SFU community.

In an interview with The Peak, director of Health & Counselling Services Martin Mroz said, “There have been no cases detected since the start of the pilot. This is not surprising, as the cases in BC have dropped a fair bit as well.”

The screening pilot is designed to proactively detect the virus in potential asymptomatic COVID-19 carriers. “There are still variants out there and there are still folks who have not been vaccinated, including children.

“Getting screened is one easy step people can take to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. If folks screen positive, they will receive options to get support.”

Mroz said participation in the pilot program has been low. “It seems people’s perceptions of COVID-19 as a risk to themselves and others changes quickly, as the provincial vaccination program has been progressing.”

According to the vaccination coverage updates on the government of Canada website, 66% of BC’s total population have received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and 27% of the total population is fully vaccinated as of July 5.

The BCCDC reports COVID-19 cases dropping from a weekly average of 857 new cases throughout the month of June, to 35 new cases by the first week of July.

The website for the COVID-19 rapid screening pilot project says the program “will determine the feasibility of a wider screening approach for SFU in the future.” 

Mroz said SFU’s COVID-19 management team hopes wider screening will not be necessary when campus reopens in the fall. 

Step four of BC’s Restart Plan projects that, by September 7, 2021, over 70% of those 18+ will be vaccinated with the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. In addition, COVID-19 case counts and hospitalizations are expected to lessen over time. 

More information about SFU’s rapid screening pilot program can be found on their website.