Surveillance testing for COVID-19

September 3rd, 2020 | News, News and Features
Maj. Tim McGee, an assistant professor in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science department, places a swab into the nose of a cadet during the real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (rRT-PCR) test Aug. 26 at Cullum Hall. The PCR test is a part of the random COVID-19 surveillance testing at West Point. The U.S. Military Academy and the U.S. Military Academy Preparatory School tests 2.5% of cadets, about 115 total, randomly per week. About 1% of the USMA population to include DOD civilians, staff and faculty and 10% of clinical health personnel are tested every two weeks. About 100-150 Corps Squad athletes are also tested per week according to NCAA guidelines. Cadet athletes are required to do 100% testing within 72 hours of competition.
McGee places a label on the viral transport media (test tube) that will hold the swab sample, which will then be transported to Keller Army Community Hospital for testing in the GeneXpert analyzer. Once the specimen is prepared and scanned, it is placed in the analyzer. Once in the GeneXpert, it takes about 50 minutes for the analyzer to provide a test result. The GeneXpert and PCR platforms look for a piece of RNA and if found, amplifies the strand so that the analyzer can determine if the specimen is positive or negative. Photos by Eric S. Bartelt/PV