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Shaheen Tours UNH Testing Lab As School Nears 100,000 Completed COVID Tests

Senator Jeanne Shaheen standing at microphone next to UNH senior vice provost Marian McCord.
Todd Bookman/NHPR

The University of New Hampshire has processed more than 99,000 COVID-19 tests since July. The high volume, according to school officials, is allowing the school to identify and isolate positive cases rapidly before they can spread.

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The school’s model is drawing praise from state and local officials, including Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, who toured the school’s testing center on Monday.

UNH is requiring students to get tested at least twice a week. Students are provided with saline solution and nasal swabs, and perform the tests on themselves. Ten drop off boxes are been placed around the campus in Durham.

“That has allowed us to do a very high volume of testing--around 4,000 per day--which we think is one of the highest testing rates in the country at any university,” said Marian McCord, senior vice provost for UNH. 

McCord said tests for students are analyzed on campus, with results available in less than 24 hours. The school is using a pooled sampling approach, where four tests are conducted simultaneously, to preserve supplies. 

UNH has confirmed 152 positive cases since July, including 81 students and 14 faculty members. Thirty-five of those cases were announced in the past seven days. Two outbreaks have been identified on campus, including at a fraternity house and an on-campus apartment building. 

School officials say there has been high compliance from students. 

“The students have been spectacular. They take it seriously,” said Mark Sedam, UNH’s vice provost for innovation. “We’ve given them the tools, and they take it very seriously.”

UNH has spent approximately $5 million on its testing program to date. That money comes, in part, from federal CARES Act funding distributed to individual states.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen spent Monday morning touring the school’s onsite testing laboratory. 

“I think this is a great model that I’m going to be talking about in Washington when we are talking about what we need to do to ensure the testing can get done across the country,” Shaheen said.

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