STORRS, Conn. (WTNH) — Governor Ned Lamont says Connecticut is testing more people per capita than the rest of the country. Now, the University of Connecticut is leading the way with some new, creative techniques.
Over the last two weeks, while the state has seen a rise in COVID-19 cases, UConn has seen nine days of zero new positive cases. Their numbers are very low and continue to trend down; they attribute that to their comprehensive testing.
UConn has administered nearly 18,000 tested to their 5,000 on-campus students this semester, and it started with a test they didn’t even know about at the wastewater treatment plant.
Dr. Kendra Maas UConn explained, “The biggest reason the wastewater is an early indicator is that it is testing everyone all the time. And it’s not just people who have symptoms; it’s testing the people who are asymptomatic. “
They are not only testing the wastewater but going upstream they have 14 different testing sites so they can narrow down the positives virus cases on campus, block it off into grids so they can tell which buildings, which dorms need further testing.
Dr. Maas said, “I wanted to have this to know that a little bit of rise in the wastewater treatment plant, I can then go pinpoint where on campus that rise is coming from.”
They do this by using a new saliva sampling method, pooling students into groups, and testing them in bulk; it saves money and time.
Dean of Students Eleanor Daugherty told News 8, “We choose to do 10 at-a-time in one pool. It’s a more cost-effective way to do testing of many as opposed to a few through the PCR tests.”
And once the pool samples come back within 24 hours, they can start to identify students with individual testing.
Dean Daugherty went on to say, “By starting big with the wastewater, focusing in on a geographic part of the campus, and then honing in on the individual students – who many times are those cases there are the asymptomatic positive students we are concerned about – we can then isolate them and care for them.”
On top of all of that, they do between three and 500 randomize tests a day on students, asking them to come in and test because they say testing is the best way to keep the numbers down.