American University and the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area announced the launch of a mobile COVID-19 testing lab that will process saliva-based COVID-19 tests at Gallaudet University.
The mobile lab is expected to have the capacity to process more than 50,000 tests per week when operations begin in March, with the goal of increasing public health safety for the participating universities as they shift back toward in-person learning.
On Tuesday, the Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners voted to join the consortium’s testing program to assist with the return of students with Baltimore City Public Schools to classrooms.
“Robust COVID-19 testing is essential to the health and safety of the American University community and the entire D.C. region,” said American University President Sylvia Burwell. “Bringing together universities, K-12 schools and community organizations to provide testing will increase knowledge about the virus, help prevent further community spread and advance in-person activity.”
American, Gallaudet, Catholic University of America and Marymount University plan to use around 5,000 of the available tests per week for their communities.
The saliva-based test that the mobile lab will use was initially developed by researchers working with the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. It requires a saliva sample instead of the nasal swab of many COVID-19 tests.
The consortium said the test has been used to detect the U.K. variant of the virus, B.1.1.7, as well as the original strain.
The test does not require trained medical personnel to administer, so participating schools can collect samples at their own sites and then send them to the mobile lab at Gallaudet for testing.
“Gallaudet University is honored to host the mobile laboratory on our bilingual campus,” added Gallaudet President Roberta J. Cordano in a statement. “We look forward to joining with our consortium partners, the Smithsonian museums and other entities to make easy-to-administer, accurate and low-cost COVID-19 testing available to our constituencies.”
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