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Penn State Launches In-House COVID-19 Diagnostic Testing

Penn State’s newly opened Testing and Surveillance Center is now providing in-house diagnostic COVID-19 testing to University Park students and employees, the university announced Tuesday.

In November, Penn State applied for and received provisional certification to perform on-campus testing. Now, it’s setting up infrastructure to support testing demand and provide faster turnaround time for student and employee test results.

Dr. Jeanne Lumadue, an assistant teaching professor in veterinary and biomedical sciences who oversees TASC operations, said the in-house lab will help Penn State provide faster tests and quickly report results directly via email.

“The University’s investment in building the infrastructure for this diagnostic laboratory is a testament to its commitment to the health and safety of our community,” Lumadue said. “The sooner positive cases are identified, the sooner individuals can take critical measures — such as quarantining and isolation — and contact tracing can proceed, helping to [minimize] disease spread.” 

TASC launched last September and began performing its own tests this week. Lumadue said it’ll ramp up testing over the next month thanks to “significantly” increased testing capacity bolstered by additional lab staffers working multiple shifts.

The center won’t collect samples, but it will process them. TASC said it’ll post more information about collecting swab specimens on campus in a few weeks.

TASC will process diagnostic tests from walk-up COVID-19 testing at Pegula Ice Arena and Hintz Family Alumni Center. If results are positive, individuals will take a confirmatory polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test through the lab, which should return results within 24 to 48 hours.

Once Penn State wraps up its “universal” re-testing of students in late February, TASC will continue performing random surveillance testing of both students and employees. The university aims to test about 2% of its on-campus population each day through this method.

By performing “pooled” tests on random groups, TASC can increase testing efficiency and provide quicker results. It’s also able to immediately retest any sample that provides indeterminate results, eliminating the need for a secondary sample.

Additionally, TASC’s certification lets it send positive and negative test results directly to individuals and Pennsylvania’s Department of Health.

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About the Author

Matt DiSanto

Matt proudly served as Onward State’s managing editor for two years until graduating from Penn State with distinction in May 2022. Now, he’s off in the real world doing real things. Send him an email (mattdisanto86@gmail.com) or follow him on Twitter (@mattdisanto_) to stay in touch.

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