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Case Western Reserve Univ. converts vending machines to dispense COVID tests for students, staff

CWRU stocks vending machines with COVID tests for students, staff
Posted at 6:39 AM, Jan 10, 2022

CLEVELAND — Today Case Western Reserve University students are heading back to class to begin 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 COVID PCR tests to help combat the latest surge 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, Executive Director of the 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?"

Vending machines with COVID tests for students, staff

The tests are free for all CWRU students, faculty and staff.

"They would take it anywhere on campus, they complete it. 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 have been dropped in the designated spaces, they're then picked up by the campus lab and tested. Koeth said results are usually delivered within 24 hours or less.

"It's kind of helping us live with COVID," she 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."

This innovation is vital as more people begin to circulate on campus. According to the university's COVID-19 dashboard, prior to 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 will 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.

Right now, the 12 vending machines are stocked with PCR tests. Eventually, rapid antigen tests will be available for students. Koeth said they will limit the number of tests students can dispense in a week to help ration limited supply.