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Governor Kay Ivey has awarded several million dollars of federal CARES Act funds to establish COVID-19 testing at colleges across the state and work on a COVID-19 notification app.

Monday, the Governor’s Office announced $30 million will go toward two programs: Testing for Alabama and Stay Safe Together.

A coalition led by the Alabama Department of Public Health and UAB will implement Testing for Alabama at universities and two-year colleges across the state. Targeted testing will also be deployed in certain underserved regions and locations with healthcare disparities.

The Governor’s Office said testing methods in development include a shallow nasal swab or a UAB-developed saline gargle test.

The goals are to test out-of-state students before they return to Alabama campuses and give all universities a chance to identify hotspots and potential COVID-19 problems early in the 2020-21 school year.

Gov. Ivey welcomed the public-private partnership between the state and UAB.

“The agreement between the state of Alabama, the Alabama Department of Public Health and UAB is exactly the type of public-private partnership that is needed to adequately respond to the COVID-19 crisis. We will only be able to acquire critical, life-saving resources by working together. Living with the coronavirus is our ‘new normal,’ and I appreciate the combined efforts to ensure that as we get back to our daily routines, we can do so safely as well as helping our valued researchers gain new information to combat this disease.”

Gov. Kay Ivey

UAB President Ray L. Watts said preemptive testing is a priority across the system as classes resume.

“Our ability to test every student returning to campus will go a long way in helping us maintain a safe environment. We are excited that, through this partnership with Governor Ivey and the state of Alabama, we will have the ability to make testing available across our System and to public colleges and universities throughout the state. On behalf of UAB and the UA System, we thank Gov. Ivey for investing in this important program that will promote health across the state.”

Ray L. Watts, UAB President

Stay Safe Together is a COVID-19 notification app in development at UAB. The app will integrate with technology from both Apple and Google to anonymously alert people who are in proximity to those who have tested positive for COVID-19. The platform, expected to potentially be available to all public higher education institutions and public K-12 schools, will also have a tool that will allow users to log their COVID-19 related symptoms.

The app is expected to be released by the start of the fall semester.

Dr. Scott Harris, Chief Health Officer, said the testing is a necessity to ensure student safety.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is going to continue at least into the fall and early winter, and the Alabama Department of Public Health wants to ensure we are doing everything we can to give our state the best opportunity to navigate the crisis as safely and effectively as possible. This free testing opportunity for all public college students will enable our state universities to have their finger on the pulse of what the prevalence of this infection is among their student body as they return and, over time, gives them the ability to monitor any change.”

Dr. Scott Harris, State Health Officer