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Jackie Fong, Elizabeth Fidalgo Da SilvaJackie Fong leads staff member Elizabeth Fidalgo Da Silva through the MyCap app as part of a pilot project to screen campus volunteers for COVID-19.

Screening study to expand reach

Researchers with the COVID Screening Platform study will expand their work to include up to 400 campus volunteers willing to be screened weekly for COVID-19.

Starting May 31 for 10 weeks, participants from the faculties of science and human kinetics, and university employees will get their saliva tested weekly, with results sent via a cellphone app called MyCap.

This is the second of the three-phase campus COVID screening program. Phase one tested 30 individuals working in the Faculty of Science’s Essex Centre of Research (CORe) building and wrapped up on April 30.

Lead researcher and biomedical sciences professor Lisa Porter say phase one allowed the team to set up and optimize processes and gauge University enthusiasm for an active testing program starting with research labs already on campus.

“We were encouraged by the goodwill of participants to go the extra mile to ensure the safety of not only themselves but everyone that they come in contact with,” says Dr. Porter.

“Phase-two will allow us to expand to other kinds of participants, including University athletes. Ultimately, we hope to help the University of Windsor community return to doing what they love to do, while keeping everyone safe.”

Researchers pool the samples and test participants’ saliva in groups to decrease costs and time, factors needed for increasing the number of individuals being screened. If one pool tests positive, everyone in their group is notified on MyCap and is called back for individual testing.

“They are also strongly recommended to immediately self-isolate, and it is requested that they notify their supervisor,” says study manager Jackie Fong (BSc 2018, MSc 2021).

The team uses a low-cost, rapid qPCR test developed by chemistry and biochemistry’s Yufeng Tong as part of a WE-Spark Health Institute seed grant.

With this testing, researchers hope to catch potentially contagious COVID-positive people who do not know they are sick because they are asymptomatic. The plan is to start phase three in September 2021 for everyone who has returned to work or study on the UWindsor campus.

The cross-disciplinary study brings together staff, faculty, and students from the Department of Biomedical Sciences, the School of Computer Science, the Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Health, the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, the Department of Psychology, WE-Spark Health Institute, and Markham-based industry partner Single Molecule Research Inc.

“We are accepting up to 400 students, staff, and faculty members from the Faculty of Science and Human Kinetics — and student athletes after the lockdown is lifted,” says Fong.

“We are also accepting university employees who are working on campus and have access to the CORe building.”

Anyone interested in volunteering is asked to email Fong to participate. Two virtual sessions will answer questions about the COVID screening platform:

  • Tuesday, May 25, at 4:30 p.m.
  • Wednesday, May 26, at 5 p.m.

They are offered through Microsoft Team; register here to attend.