YPSILANTI - As part of Eastern Michigan University’s ongoing #EMUSafe initiatives—which help minimize exposure to COVID-19 in the campus community—students, faculty and staff can take advantage of free and convenient coronavirus testing.
Located on the ground floor of the Student Center next to the EMU Bookstore, the COVID Testing Center offers rapid testing that is safe and sensitive, says Dr. Lynne Shetron-Rama, EMU professor and program director for the Clinical Laboratory Science Program.
“By offering these tests, we can hopefully keep a handle on small COVID outbreaks and keep them from spreading,” Shetron-Rama says. “The testing center saves people time and energy. People can easily sign up and walk in for a free test.”
The center, which opened in February 2021, offers a type of rapid test: Abbott BinaxNow. It is a self-administered, non-invasive, shallow nasal swab test taken around the circumference of the lower nostril area. EMU Medical Laboratory Science and Exercise Science students run the tests.
“The rapid test only goes up into the first half-inch or so of the nose,” Shetron-Rama says. “We wanted the students, staff and faculty to be able to sample themselves. The test itself is done in minutes and results come back within a couple hours.”
The test results are also highly sensitive, Shetron-Rama says.
“The rapid test checks for a piece of the viral particle and has proven to be a good test for the SARS CoV-2 virus,” she says. “The current data shows most rapid tests are 98 percent sensitive at picking up infection.”
The university chose rapid testing over PCR testing because it is substantially less expensive and results are more quickly available, says Sherry Bumpus, special assistant to the provost and EMU director of nursing operations.
“The equipment, solutions and supplies for PCR tests were in short supply when we were in the center planning process during fall 2020,” says Bumpus, who along with Shetron-Rama was part of the team that helped launch the center. “Abbott labs announced their plan to make rapid antigen tests available in January 2021. These tests are substantially less expensive than PCR, less complex and offer rapid results. These factors allowed us to open the center right away in the Winter 2021 semester.”
The campus population has been very receptive to the testing center. On a busy day, the center processes about 300 tests, Shetron-Rama says.
In addition to the benefits of convenience and rapid results, the testing center also provides real-world training for EMU students.
“The rapid testing falls under Point of Care Testing [POCT],” Shetron-Rama says. “After graduating, Medical Laboratory Science students will most likely do some of this type of testing but also may be in charge of POCT in a hospital setting, including managing and training other non-laboratorians to run these tests properly. The experiences students have in our testing center will help them understand some of the issues they may encounter with POCT later.”
The biggest benefit, of course, is keeping the campus community safe.
“EMU cares about the health and safety of every student and employee,” Bumpus says. “Providing free tests in a convenient setting—particularly for our student housing population, who may not be able to go off-campus for testing—demonstrates our strong commitment to our community.”
About Eastern Michigan University
Founded in 1849, Eastern is the second oldest public university in Michigan. It currently serves more than 16,000 students pursuing undergraduate, graduate, specialist, doctoral and certificate degrees in the arts, sciences and professions. In all, more than 300 majors, minors and concentrations are delivered through the University's Colleges of Arts and Sciences; Business; Education; Engineering and Technology; Health and Human Services; and, its graduate school. EMU is regularly recognized by national publications for its excellence, diversity, and commitment to applied education. For more information about Eastern Michigan University, visit the University's website.