NAMPA, Idaho — Northwest Nazarene University announced Saturday that it has begun utilizing a saliva-based surveillance tool that can be used to screen for COVID-19.
The saliva-based tests were discovered by Yale and were found to be simpler and less expensive.
“We were able to modify that in a way that we are able to test essentially our entire population of NNU community members on a weekly basis,” Vice President of Academic Affairs, Bradley Kurtz-Shaw says.
The tests will allow all on-campus students, staff and faculty to be screened regularly. The tests are being evaluated on campus with equipment already owned by the university.
“What the saliva sample is just saying is “Is there virus detectable in this," Kurtz-shaw says. “If virus is detected, it goes off the chart and you can see it very clearly in that pool of ten.”
Students spit into a vile and their saliva gets sent off the lab where three senior students begin conducting the testing process.
“We take the samples and pull them into groups of ten. So we are able to test groups of ten, then able to narrow it down if we do get a positive, to groups of two. It just saves a lot of time and money if we group them in ten first because then we can factor out a lot of the negative samples," says senior Mikayla Manzi.
This helps them narrow it down to two people who potentially have COVID-19. Then, those students would take a clinical COVID-19 test. According to NNU, the whole process can be done in about one day.
“Testing is just so expensive and it’s so hard to get results back quickly, so it's very cool we're able to get results back quickly and quarantine people so that the campus stays safe,” Manzi says.
NNU also shared that five community members have tested positive for COVID-19 since classes began Aug. 31. All five individuals are currently in isolation.
“We knew coming into fall semester that our campus community would not be immune to the impacts of a global pandemic." said vice president for academic affairs and chair of the 2020-21 COVID Planning Team Brad Kurtz-Shaw. "Currently, we are pleased with the ways the health and safety plans and protocols we have in place are working to help ensure impacted community members are getting the support they need while simultaneously mitigating the spread of the virus on campus … We will continue to work together to do all we can to put Community First as we navigate the challenges that COVID brings our way.”