Local health expert warns colleges not to rely heavily on COVID-19 testing as students, faculty return

PITTSBURGH — A local health expert is warning colleges and universities not to heavily rely on COVID-19 testing as students and faculty return to campus.

UPMC Clinical Laboratories Director Dr. Alan Wells said testing should be a prevention plan -- but not the foundation.

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“It’s a snapshot in time and you cannot test your way out of an epidemic,” he said.

He told Channel 11 testing asymptomatic students and faculty regularly is unrealistic given the cost and frequent interactions on campus. Instead, Wells wants to see the focus on rapid identification, isolation and containment.

“An infection prevention plan has testing as one part of it. It’s not the sole part of it and it’s not the cornerstone,” Wells said.

Carlow University President Suzanne Mellon has been speaking with experts frequently, including the Allegheny County Health Department Director Dr. Debra Bogen on Friday.

The university also plans on having everyone sign a pledge to be safe and respectful to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“You really have to be looking at, ‘how do you get behavioral buy-in for populations of students who are young and may think they’re invulnerable?‘” Mellon said.

Mellon told Channel 11 she has been speaking with other university presidents throughout the region, sharing best practices to find the most effective way to bring students and staff back safely.

It’s something she said will continue over the next few months as students get ready to come back.

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