WMU touts rapid COVID-19 testing ahead of fall semester

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — As many Michigan universities prepare for in-person instruction this fall, some have on-site testing that can help track potential COVID-19 outbreaks.

Western Michigan University is using a rapid test on campus that provides results in just 15 minutes.

The director of nursing at the Sindecuse Health Center, Jessica Slates, says the university uses a test made by California-based Quidel.

“We have done to this day around 1,000 tests since March 1st and so the nice thing is that it’s able to give us results quick so that we can help keep our community safe,” Slates said.

She said the test is about 96% accurate. If needed, additional testing looking for virus RNA can be done to provide confirmation of results.

While differing rapid tests have varying accuracy, many doctors say they can be a good tool. Testing for RNA takes longer to process and some labs have backlogs of samples.

“The RNA tests take hours to result and not to mention that quantities are limited for supplies for those testing,” Slates said.

Slates said that upon return to in-person instruction, the university will be following U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, which do not call for everyone to get tested.

“The most important is testing people who have had known exposures, who work in those frontline positions or who are symptomatic,” she listed.

The testing is open to the WMU campus community. The university is also allowing the Kalamazoo Valley Community College and Kalamazoo College communities to be tested using its rapid turnaround machines.

“All of our testing here is done by appointment only and our machines are able to do 50 to 60 tests per hour and we currently have four machines,” Slates said.

The testing is just one tool the university plans to use when students return for the fall semester.

“I feel very comfortable with our team here at Sindecuse saying that we can reopen campus safely and test people as needed,” Slates said.

The health center says it has plenty of testing capacity and has had no issues getting supplies for the rapid test.

But Slates stressed the need to take precautions to prevent spread of the virus, too.

“Testing just provides a snapshot in time,” Slates said. “It’s still very important for people to take proper precautions and wear masks and socially distance when able and wash your hands and seek medical attention if you are having any symptoms.”