Sept. 9: COVID-19 Early Detection Program

Dear Spartans,

Yesterday you received an update that we’ve seen a spike of more than 120 cases of COVID-19 among MSU students since Aug. 30. This increase was not due to one large event, but to multiple small gatherings in the East Lansing community. I know it feels very unnatural to avoid celebrating with groups of friends, keeping your distance and wearing face coverings when together, especially after being away for so long. But we need to be vigilant and adjust to our new reality.

University leaders are doing everything we can to bring students, faculty and staff back to campus as soon as safely possible. I can’t promise you when campus will return to life as we knew it before COVID-19. But I can promise you this: Without the help of each and every one of you, we will not slow the spread enough to return to campus.

We’re all adapting as we go through this pandemic — an unprecedented event in our lifetimes that demands unprecedented action. For the Spartan community, this means we need to stay apart so we can stay safe. It also means we need to take care of ourselves so we can take care of our friends and community.

I know I already have asked a lot of each of you, and I appreciate the tenacity and spirit you have shown since the onset of the pandemic. I now ask again for your support for a specific initiative.

Early detection remains critical to mitigating the spread of the novel coronavirus, which is why I am asking each of you to take part in MSU’s COVID-19 Early Detection Program (aka Spartan Spit). Simply put, this program is one vital factor in possibly bringing members of the Spartan community back to campus in the spring, as it will help us identify the presence of the virus in people who are asymptomatic.

MSU scientists developed this innovative early detection method, and I, along with university health leaders, strongly urge all faculty, staff and students who will be in East Lansing this fall to participate. I’ve signed up, and you can enroll here

Once enrolled, you will be contacted at various times throughout the semester to pick up a Spartan Spit Kit, provide a saliva sample and return the kit to a walk-up or drive-through location on campus. After the sample is processed, you’ll be contacted and told whether you need to follow up with a clinical COVID-19 test. Personal information collected through the program is protected, and the extent of your involvement, including how often you provide samples, is entirely up to you.

You can watch MSU neuroscientist Jack Lipton describing the program on MSNBC and WKAR. Also on WKAR, you can listen to MSU microbiologist Joan Rose and members of her laboratory team talking about the wastewater monitoring component of our early detection efforts. It’s important and interesting work, and I hope you take a look.

By volunteering a small amount of your time, you’ll help MSU mitigate the spread of the coronavirus and do your part to make our campus safer. But for this program to truly work, we need each of you to enroll. The larger our volunteer pool, the better we’ll be able to detect outbreaks.

I recognize how hard the past several months have been on all of you, personally, academically and professionally. I would not ask unless I truly believed it would help get us to where we need to be. We are all in this together, and each of us must do our part. Together, we will.


Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D.