UMass sets up COVID testing site

  • A student is directed to a hand sanitizing station, left, before proceeding to a nose-blowing station, right, which were requirements before entering the Mullins Center for COVID-19 testing, Monday, Aug. 17, 2020 at the University of Massachusetts. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Students line up at the Mullins Center for COVID-19 testing, Monday, at the University of Massachusetts. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Students line up at the Mullins Center for COVID-19 testing, Monday, Aug. 17, 2020 at the University of Massachusetts. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • A student blows her nose, right, one of the requirements before entering the Mullins Center for COVID-19 testing, Monday, at the University of Massachusetts. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 8/17/2020 6:58:49 PM

AMHERST — Usually a place for spectator sports, concerts and a variety of other events, the Mullins Center on Monday began taking on a new purpose as a large-scale COVID-19 testing site.

With the 1,100 or so University of Massachusetts students who will be able to live in dormitories for the fall semester arriving this week, the Public Health Promotion Center will be conducting regular testing of campus residents and others who will be taking face-to-face classes.

UMass spokesman Edward Blaguszewski described the testing center as a “very ambitious undertaking” that will operate weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., as well as next weekend. University Health Services is coordinating the site along with College of Nursing students and faculty and environmental health and safety employees.

Tests are via nasal swab, and samples are sent to the Broad Institute in Cambridge for analysis. It was unclear Monday how long it would take to get results.

Tests for asymptomatic individuals will continue twice weekly throughout the semester. In addition, there are to be daily self checks with education about good public health practice between the twice-weekly tests.

Faculty who are teaching or conducting research on campus will be tested weekly, based on current plans. Staff who regularly work on campus are also required to be tested weekly. Blaguszewski said these tests will be limited because many employees are able to work remotely or are only on campus for limited schedules.

For those exhibiting symptoms of the novel cornovavirus, University Health Services is to be immediately notified.

Finally, Blaguszewski observes that the university is doing adaptive testing that will allow for identifying patterns in the data. This would assist both UMass and the town in focusing on a specific apartment complex or dormitory should there be a cluster of positive tests.

Whenever a positive test occurs, the person will be isolated and contact tracing will begin to make sure any other possibly infected people are identified and quarantined, Blaguszewski said.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.

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