CLEVELAND — On Monday, Case Western Reserve University students will return to class to begin the spring semester. For anyone on campus looking to test for COVID-19, they won't have to go far.
The university stocked a dozen vending machines around campus with PCR tests to help combat the latest surge of COVID-19 and assist many students who may be attending clinicals.
"Our students and our staff and faculty — because we're kind of like our little city — they need to be able to be tested at all hours," said Megan Koeth, the executive director of CWRU's Department of Resiliency. "So, one of our biggest need was [asking,] how do we service people that are nursing students or medicine or medical students that maybe have clinical rotations and are working like odd shifts? How do we get them tested to here on campus?"
The tests are free for all CWRU students, faculty and staff.
"They would take it anywhere on campus, they complete it," Koeth said. "It's a saliva-based test. There's instructions, and then they have to link a barcode to their account and then after that, it's completed in a biohazard bags and they just drop it off into selected spots next to the vending machine."
After the tests are dropped off in the designated spaces, they're picked up by the campus lab and tested. Koeth says the lab usually delivers results within 24 hours or less.
"It's kind of helping us live with COVID," Koeth said. "I keep saying, it's here to stay, for at least the time being. So, what can we do to change our operations to make it so that we can still be here on campus and be safe? But, you know, we can have all those precautions in place."
Access to testing is vital as more people begin to circulate on campus. According to the university's COVID-19 dashboard, before the holiday break, the positivity rate on campus was at 7%, with 108 positive student cases and 78 faculty and staff.
Koeth said the machines would be stocked for the foreseeable future.
"We never know how long this is going to last, so we're hoping that we could keep this. This could be here for a year, this could be here for two years, as long as the need is there, the vending machines aren't going anywhere," she said.
Officials say that they will soon add rapid antigen tests to the machines. Koeth said they would limit the number of tests students can dispense in a week to help ration the limited supply.
This story was originally published by Meg Shaw on Scripps station WEWS in Cleveland.