Virginia Tech ramps up COVID-19 testing as students head back to campus

Coronavirus

BLACKSBURG, Va. (WFXR) — For the past several weeks, Virginia’s Tech’s main campus has been nearly empty and strangely quiet, but the scene may soon look a bit different.

“I’m optimistic we will see our way through the semester just as we did the last,” said Virginia Tech President Tim Sands during this year’s State of the University address.

From Saturday, Jan. 16 through Sunday, Jan. 24, an estimated 7,400 students will be moving into on-campus housing, which means more COVID-19 testing by the university.

While it’s optional for most students, testing is a requirement for those residing on campus.

“Over a relatively short and compressed period, we’ll collect samples from all those students, doing well over a thousand a day,” said Dr. Michael Friedlander, Vice President of Health Sciences and Technology at Virginia Tech and Executive Director of the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute.

The samples will be processed at the university’s COVID-19 Molecular Diagnostics Laboratory, located at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute in Roanoke.

Although the process will happen within a nine-day period, Dr. Friedlander says samples usually involve a quick turn-around.

“For us to do the tests and turn it around and report the result is simply, it’s overnight,” said Dr. Friedlander.

The COVID-19 lab has been occupied since last April, processing more than 70,000 samples to support the university’s community and several health districts in southwest Virginia.

“We’re not isolated, right? We’re interacting with the community. So it’s all one big community,” Dr. Friedlander said. “Whatever we can do to help the entire region of the state, beyond the university, is something that we feel very strongly about.”

The work of the lab has been widely acknowledged by local and federal agencies including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

With COVID-19 variants known and vaccinations underway, Dr. Friedlander says their work is just beginning.

“We are really proud on what people are doing. They’re providing a good and information service, and we’ll do it as long as we have to,” said Dr. Friedlander.

Virginia Tech students are asked to quarantine for ten days prior to returning on campus.

Mandatory surveillance testing for high-contact employees resumed on Jan. 5, and voluntary testing for students and employees began last week.

For more information on the COVID-19 Molecular Diagnostics Laboratory, visit their article here.

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