FHSU brings state mobile lab to campus

BY CORIE LYNN

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Fort Hays State University has taken precautions to ensure the safety of the campus and to identify any potential outbreak.

The University’s latest effort to address the virus is to bring the Kansas State mobile lab to campus.

“I think one of the cool things of us showing up today is that we built this lab out of some of the federal dollars from last year to help attack COVID, to help impact COVID,” said Myron Gunsalus, Director of Labs for the State of Kansas.

This state lab, fitted out in a truck bearing Kansas Department of Health and Environment logo, sat outside of Gross Memorial Coliseum on the Fort Hays State University Campus on Friday.

From 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. that day, students, faculty and staff made the trek to the Coliseum to receive a free COVID-19 test. The mobile lab processed each batch of tests every three hours.

Though free COVID-19 tests are still available to students at the FHSU Student Health Center, the University brought the mobile unit to campus in response to the identification of the U.K. strain of the virus in an FHSU student-athlete.

Gunsalus explained that the mobile lab’s rapid testing work through its staff asking FHSU employees and students a few questions.

The masked and gowned staff members then took each visitor into the Coliseum to table at which they received a nasal mid-turbinate test, which takes a swab sample from part of the way up their nose.

Once the results are processed, a member of the lab staff will contact each visitor and discuss the results with them.

According to Gunsalus, Kansas is one of the only states with this type of mobile, rapid testing. But he saw the need for a lab that quickly addresses and isolates areas that need virus testing.

Because of this, the main purpose of the lab is to take testing to close-contact areas, such as a nursing home, and to underserved populations.

“We can take the mobile lab into a community that may not have bus service, may not have cars to get to a larger facility,” Gunsalus said. “You know, can’t go to where the testing sites are, so we can bring the testing site to them and result it out the same day.”

Though it is meeting the need for rapid testing in these areas and helping FHSU address any campus virus cases, the hope is that the lab will meet health needs beyond the pandemic.

“And the nice thing is that it’s equipped for PCR. We can retrofit it after COVID is over to whatever kind of impact we need to do to serve the state of Kansas as a state health lab,” Gunsalus said.

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