January 27, 2021

As part of its ongoing efforts to control the spread of COVID-19 on campus, Susquehanna University has established its own facility on campus to accurately and quickly process screening tests for students, faculty and staff.

Susquehanna’s testing facility utilizes PCR testing to detect the presence of the coronavirus.

“PCR testing is considered the ‘gold standard’ for detection of viruses such as COVID,” said David Richard, professor of biology and Susquehanna’s COVID-19 coordinator.

Planning for Susquehanna’s PCR testing lab began during the fall 2020 semester so that it could be operational by the time students returned to campus for the spring 2021 semester. The lab will function as a screening tool to process nasal swab samples from students, faculty and staff. Positive results will be confirmed by a third-party diagnostic testing facility.

“With our own testing facility, we will receive reliable negative results within hours rather than days,” Richard said. “This also means that students won’t face days in quarantine before getting their results.”

Richard manages the lab, assisted by SU laboratory coordinator Chandra Childress and Alyssa Brown, who recently joined SU as a COVID-19 laboratory technician.

Childress will prepare testing materials and assist with PCR tests. Brown will assist with testing procedures and with database management to coordinate the university’s various testing systems. Richard will set up and run the PCR tests, and interpret the results.

Susquehanna conducts multi-layer testing. All students are required to have a test prior to move-in. Each week, all students will be scheduled to be tested twice a week with a nasal swab test, with results available the same day. Symptomatic individuals will be tested, with results expected within 48 hours. Faculty and staff will be scheduled to be tested bi-weekly throughout the spring semester.

Childress explained the safety procedures in place in the lab, which is split into three rooms: one area where samples will be logged in, a second area where PCR testing agents are stored, and a third area where the PCR tests are run.

“All those running the samples wear gowns, gloves and KN95 masks,” Childress said.

“Safety protocols are highly important in the lab,” Brown added. “Cross-contamination must be eliminated to ensure there are no false positives.”