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There are 21 comments on Robots, Nanobeads, and Data Modeling—The Science behind BU’s Coronavirus Testing Plan

  1. What is the sensitivity and specificity of the test? Rate of false positives/negatives/inconclusive test? What happens if one tests positive? Do they retest until negative? What if they are asymptomatic? How long will testing go on? Weeks, months, semesters?

    1. Hi, this is Cathie Klapperich from the lab. Our test has very high sensitivity and specificity. In our hands, our initial validation data showed greater than 95% sensitivity and specificity as required by the FDA.

      False positives are very rare.

      False negative rates are still being calculated. Since this is a real world number, you need to test a lot of people several times to get a good idea. So far it also appears to be low.

      If the test is positive, you will be contacted by SHS (students) or Occupational Health (staff and faculty). You will be instructed on how to isolate given your living situation. We will contact trace your closest contacts and get them tested ASAP.

      We will be testing on the BU campus for the entire 2020-2021 academic year, and likely until a widespread vaccine is available.

      More info here: https://www.bu.edu/back2bu/covid-19-testing-tracing/

        1. I think you are asking about pooling. Pooling is when we take several samples and mix them together in the lab and test them at once. This can be a cheaper approach if the prevalence of disease is low in a community. There are some calculations that have to be made after we are testing at our full rate to see if pooling will be beneficial to us. Several folks at BU who study pooling are looking into this approach.

          At this time we are not pooling samples.

          The result you get is your result from your test on your swab alone!

    1. Yes, you will be prompted by email – so check your email! – once your group is allowed to schedule for testing.

      Throughout the semester, you will be prompted to schedule your appointment(s) each week.

      Yes, you will be able to choose the time and collection location.

  2. When will graduate students participating in the testing pilot receive results? I was tested over 48 hours ago and have not received results. I know pilots exist to test out personnel and equipment, but more clarity on timeline would be appreciated.

    1. You should look for results in your email. You may also call Student Health Services to check.

      Yes, pilot turnaround times are a bit slower than our goal of 24 hours, since we are ramping up the hours of the lab over the next two weeks.

      Thanks for your patience as we work (quickly) toward next day results!

      1. Hi again @Alia, just checked on this. As you stated, pilots are for testing process, and we have a software issue today! If you still don’t have a result, drop me an email catherin@bu.edu with your U# and I can help you out.

  3. What about asymptomatic clients/students with positive tests? So they not get immediate isolation as well? They still can spread virus..

    1. Anyone who tests positive will first be retested at a separate site to confirm that they are positive, and then will go into isolation. Where does it say anything about asymptomatic students not being isolated?

    2. Anyone with a positive test is isolated ASAP.

      People with symptoms should not go to a testing facility and should immediately call Student Health (Students) or Occupational Health (staff/faculty). Symptomatic people will be tested in a separate location from the screening test sites.

  4. Compliance will be key. Where is the online agreement which students and staff must sign before having even the 1st test administered? Where is the addendum to the residential agreement students must sign as well? These need to be posted before they are asked to sign these. What are the consequences for non-compliance and what are the new rules?

    Thanks for all your hard work.

  5. Congrats on the hard work putting together this lab. As a BU Alum, I’m proud of this accomplishment.

    However, BU should have take. the responsible choice by starting the semester online, and used all of this wonderful expertise and lab space to test our cities essential workers.
    They have wait a week or more for results while BU students paying lots of money get there’s within 24 hours.

    I hope this program is eventually able to scale up to helping other essential works in Boston not just BU affiliates.

    Goos luck with the program and semester.

    1. Hi Robert, story author here. About false negatives, from pilot testing data, Dr. Klapperich says in the above comments that: “False negative rates are still being calculated. Since this is a real world number, you need to test a lot of people several times to get a good idea. So far it also appears to be low.”

      Similar to the level of detail in this piece, we’re planning a deep-dive story for The Brink about all the different data points that will be posted in the dashboard. Please check back, and thanks for your comment.


  6. As a parent of an incoming freshman I am so impressed. I am a nurse and can appreciate the overwhelming task at hand. I congratulate you for your efforts. I am cautiously optimistic and extremely in awe of all that went into this.

  7. Students, staff, and faculty will receive treatment and quarantine if they test positive and contact tracing will find those potentially infected for further testing. Since we don’t know yet how much protection the antibodies gained from recovering from COVID confers, what will those who’ve recovered from the disease do? Reenter the testing regime? Be exempted from it for a time?

    1. At this time, we recommend that they reenter the testing regime. This recommendation may change if more information becomes known about immunity.

  8. Can students opt to get tested more than their required amount? For example, if I’m a grad student in “category 3”, can I still make appointments for myself every other week to get tested?

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