Healthbeat: Local college creates COVID-19 testing lab on campus

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DALLAS TOWNSHIP, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — We’ve seen the struggles some college campuses have endured trying to keep in-person learning happening during the pandemic. One local university believes it’s come up with one way to ease those struggles.

Misericordia University realizes COVID-19 can be spread quickly by infected individuals with no symptoms. It’s why this week, the university launched its own COVID-19 surveillance testing laboratory on campus.

Misericordia University Student Lounge is serving a new purpose. It’s now a place for students, faculty and staff to be tested for COVID-19. We’ve seen how coronavirus can quickly derail life like it did for the Misericordia Baseball Team.

“In the fall, we had it rough. A bunch of people got it, shut down our season, so hopefully this keeps us intact, and we can have a full season going forward,” said Kyle Lennon, student athlete, Misericordia University.

The plan is to keep academics and athletics on track by doing random tests. This is the first time Professor Melissa Cencetti is being tested for COVID-19.

“I’m on campus four out of five days a week and working with a variety of students so I guess it’s just another layer of precaution that we’re taking.”

“One of the things that we really want to do is create a safe environment for everybody to work and learn,” Heidi Manning, Dean, College of Arts & Sciences, Misericordia University said.

The surveillance testing lab is equipped with a PCR machine which pools together five saliva samples as part of a batch of 70. Any positive readings are then teased apart to identify who tested positive.

Unlike diagnostic testing, which is standard for people with COVID symptoms, surveillance testing has a particular focus: the asymptomatic population.

“We can identify any potential positive cases before they cause an outbreak on campus. So, we’re getting ahead of the game rather than waiting for somebody to come down with symptoms,” Manning said.

Athletes and 25 percent of the campus population will be tested weekly. That’s roughly 500 people

“Just like wearing a mask as part of a way to keep everybody safe, we’re asking for everybody who is randomly selected to come and participate in the testing. Pretty quick, pretty painless,” said Manning.

A $300,000 donation made the surveillance testing lab possible at Misericorida University. The plan is to continue testing the rest of the spring semester and the fall if necessary and eventually extend surveillance testing into the community.

Healthbeat Mark Hiller Eyewitness News

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