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The University of Montana is providing on-campus students with COVID-19 testing designed for asymptomatic detection, specifically for students returning from travel during break, according to a UM News release.

Paula Short, UM’s associate vice president of Strategic Communications, said the hope is to be alerted to more positive COVID-19 cases earlier and prevent clusters or outbreaks of the virus in the residence halls. 

“It’s very possible to be walking around and feeling fine and in fact actually have a COVID-19 infection,” Short said. “So, it’s a tool for awareness for students.”

She said priority is being given to students living on campus who have traveled from out of state, then to students living on campus who haven’t left Montana and lastly to off-campus students who are taking in-person classes. Though, with limited testing availability, only students on campus will have access to the testing for the first two weeks of classesschool. Testing is still free through Curry Health Center to all students who are feeling symptoms of COVID-19. 

Short explained that on-campus students are being given priority because they live in close quarters with other students, sharing rooms, bathrooms and showers. An email should have been sent to all students living on campus with instructions on how to sign up on the new Griz Hub portal for testing in the University Center. 

Short said that though testing is completely voluntary she hopes to have a high number of students who opt in. She said many people who have had the traditional COVID-19 test have said the experience was uncomfortable, as the swab goes far up the nose.

“I wouldn’t want that to be a deterrent. Some people might - knowing how uncomfortable the traditional symptomatic COVID test is - they might not opt in,” Short said, adding that the asymptomatic test is self-administered and less intrusive than the traditional test. “It’s really quite easy. It takes a matter of minutes.”

The testing is being done using a supply of BinaxNOW Ag cards, which provide results within 15-30 minutes. Short compared them to pregnancy tests, as positive results will show up as two pinkish lines on the card.