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New COVID testing lab opens at UNH to process student’s self-collected samples

  • A new lab at the University of New Hampshire utilizes technicians and robotics to process up to 4,000 samples a day. Photos courtesy of Jeremy Gasowski

  • UNH senior Caroline Wilson uses one of the self-testing kits being introduced on the Durham campus, and perhaps beyond.

Monitor staff
Published: 9/10/2020 2:12:46 PM
Modified: 9/10/2020 2:12:35 PM

The University of New Hampshire announced it will test students for COVID-19 in a newly created lab, which was established especially to quickly process virus results.

The center, located at UNH Health & Wellness center, will use samples from self-swabbing home kits to test students every four days. The kits were developed by UNHInnovation, the university’s commercialization enterprise, and include a nose swab and a test tube with a barcoded label. Students will drop off their self-collected samples at designated sites and at designated times.

The lab will employ pool testing, a procedure that combines many individual samples to speed up the rate of testing. If the combined samples test negative, the students can return to classes. If the samples test positive, each individual sample is tested again to determine who needs to be quarantined.

UNH developed this lab after watching testing delays across the country that have made it difficult for health officials to trace outbreaks. The facility, which utilizes lab technicians and robotics to process the samples, is equipped to handle 4,000 samples a day. Each sample can take 48 hours to process or more.

This news comes shortly after Jim Dean, the university president, sent an email to students criticizing a large fraternity party that drew about 100 people, few of whom wore masks. At least 11 cases of COVID-19 have been linked back to that fraternity party.

Since the fall semester started, positive cases of the virus have been steadily increasing. As of Sep. 2, there were 51 positive cases, primarily concentrated in the Durham campus.

Most recent data shows that the Manchester campus still has not reported a single positive case of the virus. The university’s Concord testing site has reported two confirmed cases.

If the new testing lab proves successful, it will start accepting samples from other schools in the University System of New Hampshire, such as Keene State College and Plymouth State University, officials said.


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