Coronavirus

A Local Research Institute Is Testing College Students for COVID-19. Here's What It's Finding

The testing facility at the Broad Institute has processed more than 1.1 million COVID-19 tests since March

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As colleges implement regular coronavirus testing requirements for students and staff the fall semester, more than 100 higher education institutions have joined a program with a local research institute to get the results within 24 hours.

So far, 108 colleges and universities in Massachusetts and the region have decided to participate in the program at the Broad Institute, which is affiliated with Harvard University and MIT.

Schools involved in the program include Boston College, Northeastern University, Yale, Tufts and UMass Amherst.

Among more than 415,000 tests conducted for the college and university testing program so far, the positive rate across the board is approximately 0.1% — or 1 in 1,000. By comparison, Massachusetts has maintained about a 1% positivity rate.

More than 1.1 million COVID-19 tests have been processed at the institute's testing facility since March with an average 24-hour turnaround to deliver results.

“From a public health perspective, it has given us confidence that we can detect infections early and take immediate steps to reduce spread and keep our community safe,” Tufts University President Anthony Monaco said.

Colleges and universities determine who should be tested and how often. Broad Institute sends them test kits, including tubes and swabs. The schools collect the samples and send them back to the institute, which then processes the tests within about 24 hours.

The institute is charging colleges $25 per test, which the Broad compared to some private labs that charge up to $150 per test.

“This testing provides critical data and analysis that strengthens policy and response across the Commonwealth," Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders said.

The program was conceived in May, when the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts (AICUM) asked the Broad Institute to support its member organizations’ goal for regular testing throughout the semester.

“Many schools were concerned that regular testing would be too costly and overwhelming to manage,” AICUM President Richard Doherty said. “Working with the Broad Institute, we developed a plan that would make regular testing a more viable option for schools to consider as they make the best decisions for their students, faculty, and staff.”

With the recent increases, the institute's testing lab is now processing approximately one in every 20 tests conducted in the United States, based on testing data from the COVID Tracking Project. Broad’s daily testing volume is reported on its COVID-19 testing dashboard.

“Our first priority has been to offer COVID-19 testing services to support public health needs across Massachusetts and the region, so we are proud to help our partners in higher education detect and quickly respond to any new outbreaks this fall,” said Stacey Gabriel, Senior Director of the Broad Institute Genomics Platform.

“Thanks to a remarkable team, we have been able to create capacity to process tens of thousands of tests per day, and have validated test kits that use materials and supplies that are widely available.”

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