Spotlight Series: Campus Covid Testers

Nicole Yeager, Special Features Co-Editor

Wake up. Brush teeth. Get dressed. Head to class (or join Zoom class). Get lunch. Get your weekly COVID-19 test.

Getting tested has become a normal part of all of our routines in the past year. In order to successfully manage a pandemic school year, the University has implemented on-campus testing for all students, professors and faculty alike. 

This semester, the University has been working with GENETWORx in order to provide continuous, free COVID-19 nasal swab tests for the campus community. In order to get tested, individuals first schedule their weekly test on the Aura app; testing is available Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. (6:00 a.m. on Thursdays) to 3:45 p.m. At their scheduled appointment in Sojka Pavilion, individuals must scan their Aura QR code and then they will receive a personalized test tube in a plastic bag from one of the testing administrators. Next, they go to a testing agent, who will perform a mid turbinate nasal swab on the individual. After this, students, professors and faculty simply wait to get their results back on the Aura app; most recently, the turnaround time for test results has been expedited to 24 hours. Lastly, all individuals schedule their next weekly test — a policy intended to help manage the spread. 

The Bucknellian has interviewed Dave Battinieri, Director of COVID Consulting for Colleges and Universities at GENETWORx, in order to get the inside scoop on the friendly faces we see once a week at the testing center: 

What are the day-to-day schedules like?

Our GENETWORx staff will arrive to the testing site prior to the start time of each testing day. Project managers and site supervisors will inspect the testing site prior to opening to check for cleanliness and adequate supplies. Administrators and testing agents will then arrive outfitted in appropriate PPE. Students are checked in for their scheduled appointments using the QR codes on their Aura apps on their phones. GENETWORx administrators then use the scanned QR code to verify name and date of birth and transfer that information to the vial. The student is handed their testing vial and proceeds to the testing area. The GENETWORx testing agent will again verify their name and date of birth and proceed to perform a mid turbinate swab on the student.  

What is the behind-the-scenes process of each COVID-19 testfrom when students get their test done to when they get their results back, what happens? 

Once all COVID-19 tests are processed for a certain day, they are scanned in and a manifest is created. Then the samples are couriered to our lab in either Woodbridge, N.J. or our main lab in Glen Allen, Va. Once the samples arrive at the lab they are registered, plated, and run through specialized instrumentation. When the results are obtained, usually within 12-48 hours from the day of the test, they are pushed out to students and administrators to view on the Aura platform.

How has the rate of students getting tested changed over various points in the semester? Do all students generally get tested consistently? Is there a rise in testing when there is a spike in cases on campus?

Generally, students, faculty and staff are tested once a week at minimum. Some student athletes need to be tested more frequently based upon recommendations from the NCAA or athletic conference. Testing intervals and protocols are at the discretion of Bucknell – GENETWORx will test as frequently as Bucknell deems it necessary to keep the campus safe and mitigated of the COVID-19 virus.

What is something that people might not know about the COVID testing process?

Our in-house Aura technology, utilized by both students and school administration, is unique and highly successful in making the GENETWORx testing platform user friendly and efficient. Importantly, Aura really speeds up the turnaround time of testing for the university. It also allows GENETWORx to track samples from the time they leave the testing site, all the way to the lab and throughout the entire process until results are pushed out. Given that we know exactly where every sample is during the process, GENETWORx is able to focus on providing the best testing experience possible.

What is the best part of the job?

The best part of the job for anyone working at GENETWORx is knowing that we are making a difference each and every day to mitigate the spread of COVID 19 on college campuses across the country. Allowing schools like Bucknell to reopen for safe in-person learning and allowing students to have as normal a college experience as they can during this pandemic is our goal and our mission. Bucknell’s success in providing this to students is very gratifying to those performing the testing at the college and all who work at the laboratory. 

During these times, when the “new normal” is becoming even more normal and Covid-19 testing is becoming a part of our everyday lives that we don’t often think about, it is important to continue to stay educated on the testing process —furthermore, it is important to be kind to all the hard-working individuals who make safe and substantial COVID-19 testing on the University campus possible. 

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