Iowa Wesleyan partnership with lab helped with tests

MT. PLEASANT — Through a partnership with Sheffield Lab under the Carver College of Medicine at the University of Iowa, Iowa Wesleyan University was able to conduct necessary COVID-19 testing to track and contain the spread of the virus on its campus.

The lab, which has been conducting saliva testing at Iowa Wesleyan during its fall semester, will continue providing testing in the spring semester, according to a release from Iowa Wesleyan. The university noted the lab was an affordable option as it moved forward with face-to-face instruction for its fall semester.

The collaboration first began after University Provost DeWayne Frazier read in May of the lab’s efforts to provide support to Iowa communities. The lab, which usually does work on human genetic diseases, was in jeopardy of being shut down in March but remained open by developing a COVID-19 test.

“We need to provide free testing for the community, and it doesn’t matter what it costs us,” Dr. Val Sheffield. “We have to get it out there.”

The Polymerase Chain Reaction test was submitted to the FDA in early April and received human subject approval from the University of Iowa Internal Review Board to conduct tests for research purposes.

Iowa Wesleyan students, faculty and staff were given tests on campus, which were delivered to the Iowa City lab, two to three times a week. Tests were numbered to keep student identity anonymous.

The tests allowed the Iowa Wesleyan campus to monitor virus activity, especially among high-risk students “as they moved onto campus and throughout the semester.”

“We were able to avoid a significant outbreak on campus or in our residence halls because we had the opportunity to do surveillance testing through this partnership,” Matt Klundt, assistant dean of students for health, careers and service, said.

During its fall semester, the university campus saw 162 students, staff and faculty test positive for the coronavirus. The university conducted a total of 889 tests and reported a 18.2 percent positivity rate at the end of its semester.