Carroll College students will be able to get COVID-19 tests with results in 24 hours through a new partnership between the school and Shodair Children’s Hospital.
According to Carroll President John Cech, the college and Shodair started having conversations during the fall semester about developing a partnership. With its medical genetics expertise, infrastructure and facilities, Shodair was approved to use the “SalivaDirect” method for testing that was developed by the Yale Public School of Health. According to both Cech and Corbin Schwanke, chief administrative officer for genetics at Shodair, this method is equally as reliable, and less expensive, than tradition nasal swab tests.
“Because of the exclusive partnership, Shodair is able to provide testing results very quickly, which is essential for the safe reopening of Carroll,” Cech said. “I am grateful to Shodair CEO Craig Aasved for his help and support and willingness to partner with Carroll College.”
Schwanke said Shodair’s medical genetics department has a laboratory that is certified to run high-complexity testing. This partnership was able to come together quickly because most of the necessary equipment is already available on-site, according to Schwanke. Additionally, the site’s laboratory technologists are already accustomed to running the techniques for this kind of test.
“From the beginning of the pandemic we have considered whether our lab could take on COVID testing, but once we established this partnership with Carroll everything fell into place,” Schwanke said. “Shodair was able to license the test through Yale very quickly. In the end we both benefit, as both Carroll and Shodair get access to faster results.”
According to Schwanke, this is the first partnership of this kind for Shodair’s genetics lab, but the lab has served clients all across the state and country as a reference lab for nearly 50 years.
“Shodair was thrilled when Carroll reached out last fall as they were looking for options for their testing needs,” Schwanke said. “It’s gratifying to see this partnership provide efficient and beneficial outcomes for everyone involved. Getting timely test results has always been a driving force within our comprehensive genetic services and having the ability to conduct these tests in-house very much benefits the families we serve, as well as the entire Shodair community, by having the right information when we need it.”
Cech said the college has already begun testing faculty and staff who were on campus the week before school. Cech was tested last week and said he was thankful it came back negative. Testing for students is set to begin on Monday and will continue throughout the semester. Cech said students who do their work and studies in clinical and health care settings have been able to obtain vaccinations or will be able to promptly as they return to campus. He said this provides peace of mind for students who work closely with vulnerable populations.
“Just as we did in the fall, we are strongly encouraging all students to be tested when the return to campus,” Cech said. “Testing is very strongly encouraged but not mandatory. What is different this January is that we have a higher number of students who have already contracted COVID-19 in August. If a student has been COVID positive in the last 90 days, they do not have to test. However, once the 90 days has expired, they should resume testing.”
Knowing that testing was critical for the college to keep students on campus, Cech said, members of the Marching Forward task force worked tirelessly since the fall to make certain there was a robust testing program in place for the spring. The partnership with Shodair allows the college to rapidly test large groups of students each week. This includes groups like student-athletes in competitive seasons, who in some cases will be tested several times each week.
“We learned a lot from last semester, not the least of which is that if we are consistent with testing, we are able to quickly isolate, quarantine and contact trace our students in order to prevent a larger outbreak,” Cech said. “Having on-campus testing available throughout the entire semester was instrumental in managing our cases and ultimately allowing us to maintain an in-person semester.”
Cech said Carroll was among only 27% of American colleges and universities that did not have to convert all or a portion of its classes to remote delivery last fall. Unfortunately, there has been a surge of COVID cases both locally, regionally and nationally over the past several months, which makes the college’s returning protocol all the more important to remain safe and healthy, said Cech.
Students are being asked to self-quarantine for 10 days prior to returning to campus, obtain a COVID-19 test if possible in their local community within five days of returning to campus, and to remain in quarantine in their home prior to coming to campus if they are COVID-19 positive. Cech said if a student is COVID-19 positive the administration is asking them to fill out the form on the Marching Forward website found under the “Safety & Emergency” tab at www.carroll.edu.
Credit: Helena Independent Record