Emily Reid, Campus Carrier reporter
Many universities across the country are opening COVID-19 testing labs on their college campuses.
Schools like Mercer University in Macon, Ga. have opened a testing sites on campus with the goal of conducting as many tests as possible per day. Mercer’s lab has been open since June, and the university can conduct about 740 tests per day with its current staffing of three technicians.
Their lab not only tests students, but will be used to test faculty, staff and members of the general public. The tests are conducted using a nasal swab to check for the infection of the COVID-19 virus but does not check for antibodies.
Christopher Hall, associate professor of biology, believes opening a testing lab is feasible, he does not believe it is practical. Universities with COVID-19 testing labs, like Mercer, are large research universities. They have the infrastructure, equipment, technical expertise and personnel to have testing labs.
“There are reasons it could be done at Berry, but the cost and the time to get it set up, I think would be prohibitive,” Hall said. “One of the big issues is personnel who has time, because one thing that of course has to be meticulous is the record keeping. You would really need one person minimal just to run the testing and then another one to help manage database for keeping track, I would expect.”
Hall has never set up a diagnostic lab before but thinks it is not as simple as sticking the tube in the machine and letting it run. Information must be validated and recorded in a standard format.
Unlike larger universities, Berry cannot afford to conduct testing each week on college students.
“Imagine the cost,” Hall said. “Berry has been very fortunate. There are so many of these smaller colleges that have gone under, declared bankruptcy, and are struggling to figure out how to pay the bills. Berry’s been able to manage their finances well enough that we’re doing okay, but we can’t spend $40,000 a week on tests.”
Hall believes Berry students have done a pretty good job so far in following the rules and regulations surround COVID on campus.
There has been a lot of schools who have done a lot worse,” Hall said. “It’s like a leaky bucket. You find the leak and you stop it. You just hope that there are no more cases that spring up. Berry students did a great job of following the rules.”