UNH expects in-house virus testing lab within weeks
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — The University of New Hampshire expects to open a coronavirus testing lab with a 12-hour turnaround time for results within a few weeks, the head of the state university system said Monday.
USNH Chancellor Todd Leach joined colleagues from private colleges and the community college system for a discussion hosted by U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan. Students have begun returning to many campuses this week, and so far the process has gone smoothly, they said.
At the public universities, students are required to get tested for the virus before arriving, and will be tested upon arrival and again within weeks, Leach said.
The new lab will be able to process thousands of samples a day, not just from the UNH campus in Durham but from Plymouth State University and Keene State College, Leach said.
“That will ensure no matter how busy things get around the country, we’ll have a turnaround time that’s fairly tight,” he said.
At the state’s community colleges, where fewer students live in campus, the focus is less on testing and more on personal protective equipment, said interim Chancellor Susan Huard. That’s because many students also work as essential workers.
“Our average student is 26, and she has children. We’ve got mom, or dad, sitting at the kitchen table trying to fit the children’s education in with their own education, while they work as a (licensed nursing assistant) or in the restaurant industry,” she said. “We have to think in terms of how do we keep them safe on campus while they’re coming in and out of the community.”
Hassan said she is dismayed that Congress has yet to pass a second round of coronavirus relief aid. She supports allocating $132 billion for higher education across the country.
In other coronavirus-related developments:
A nonprofit advocacy organization is partnering with three of New Hampshire’s largest law firms to help low-income families avoid homelessness during the pandemic.
New Hampshire Legal Assistance is using a federally-funded grant from the state’s nonprofit emergency relief fund to meet the increased demand for legal help because of the pandemic. Attorneys from McLane Middleton; Sheehan Phinney Bass & Green; and Rath, Young and Pignatelli will work at NHLA on housing and benefits cases through mid-December.
“With CARES Act funding available only until the end of the year, the Fellowship Attorneys Program is powering up additional capacity at a crucial time. We’re so grateful to the participating firms. We asked for help, and they stepped up immediately,” NHLA Executive Director Sarah Mattson Dustin said in a statement.
As of Monday, 7,004 people had tested positive for the virus in New Hampshire, an increase of 16 from the previous day. The number of deaths stood at 423. The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in New Hampshire decreased over the past two weeks from 25 new cases per day on Aug. 2 to 22 new cases per day on Aug. 16.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.