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Keeping up with COVID-19 testing advancements on campus

Photo by Mufid Majnun

Boise State University has implemented 15 minute COVID-19 testing for any students that are symptomatic. According to the Executive Director of Boise State Health Services Julia Beard started administrating a 15-minute turn-around test on campus for $75 on Sept. 15.

“Anyone with symptoms or exposure can come to our testing tent at the Norco building and get tested,” Beard said.

Trevor Thorne, a first year computer science major, feels faster testing results could put students in the clear a lot sooner.

“Having a roommate who was exposed to someone with COVID [who has to] quarantine for two weeks presents a frustrating dilemma,” Thorne said. “Not only is having a quarantined roommate an inconvenience to everyone living in the dorm, it is also aggravating for the person in question for a variety of reasons.

Thorne is not the only student struggling with slow testing, especially after the testing of everybody in Chaffee Hall. 

COVID-19 test research has been an ongoing study to help fight the virus, and Abbott Laboratories is a company that has been working on the development of new COVID-19 tests. The new test that costs $5, works in 15 minutes, is 97% accurate for positive results and can be done at home. The federal government has bought 15 million of the tests.

Boise State had previously been struggling with COVID-19 testing, according to Beard.

[Photo of a sterile cotton swab to be used for a nasal swab COVID-19 test]
Photo by Mufid Majnun | Unsplash

At the beginning of the year, Boise State pledged to test all on-campus students, but cancelled the plan due to budgetary concerns and other inconveniences with testing. The previous testing that was implemented took days to get results, leaving students in a limbo waiting for results.

“The older tests also require isolation of the ribonucleic acid (RNA) from the virus and amplification of this RNA. This is time consuming, requires reagents that are expensive and also requires someone with molecular biology experience to perform it,” said Juliette Tinker, associate professor of molecular biology.  “It is slightly more accurate than the fifteen minute tests, but can take days to determine an outcome.”

The new 15 minute test that Boise State is using is done at a clinic through a nasal swab.

According to Beard, the new test could solve Boise State’s budgetary issues earlier in the year regarding its lack of testing resources and budget. The university can now test students faster than before.

“This is one of the main ways we will be able to control the spread of the virus — to know where it is and isolate those with it,” Tinker said. “This upside of getting the test where we need it and getting results fast outweighs the downside of not as much sensitivity.”

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