Penn State opens on-campus coronavirus testing center

The new lab will test students at random to help the university identify asymptomatic carriers of the virus and monitor the prevalence of COVID-19 on campus.
Penn State students
Graduate Nick Pelino poses for a selfie with Taja Finley, left, and Marissa Bufalini after Penn State Beaver's commencement on May 3, 2019. (Cathy Benscoter)

To better mitigate and monitor the spread of COVID-19, Pennsylvania State University on Monday opened a new testing lab that will be used for random, daily COVID-19 testing of its students on campus.

The Penn State Testing and Surveillance Center, or TASC, will test students who have been selected at random to help the university identify asymptomatic carriers of the virus and monitor the prevalence of COVID-19 on campus, according to the university.

Surveillance testing of students, which the university began doing last month, was initially conducted via a combination of diagnostic tests from the university’s testing vendors, including Vault Health. But the new testing lab on campus will allow Penn State to process student COVID-19 tests in-house.

The lab will randomly select students in groups of five to be tested so the university can collect data to assess what percentage of students may be infectious and to identify community trends in how COVID-19 is spreading, said Suresh Kuchipudi, a clinical professor and associate director of the Animal Diagnostic Laboratory at Penn State.


“Surveillance testing of individuals without COVID-19 symptoms allows the University to monitor positive asymptomatic cases and determine the need for additional mitigation steps,” Kuchipudi said in a press release.

Selected students will be contacted by email and text message to answer COVID-19 screening questions and are required to schedule an appointment to be tested for the virus. Once tests are validated the results are to be included on the university’s COVID-19 dashboard.

The university says testing will be done daily and include at least 1% of the student, faculty and staff population.

Other universities, including Ohio State University, Vanderbilt University and the State University of New York at Buffalo have also launched COVID-19 surveillance testing programs to gain better insights into how COVID-19 is affecting students, staff and faculty on campus and identify asymptomatic cases for isolation.

Betsy Foresman

Written by Betsy Foresman

Betsy Foresman was an education reporter for EdScoop from 2018 through early 2021, where she wrote about the virtues and challenges of innovative technology solutions used in higher education and K-12 spaces. Foresman also covered local government IT for StateScoop, on occasion. Foresman graduated from Texas Christian University in 2018 — go Frogs! — with a BA in journalism and psychology. During her senior year, she worked as an intern at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., and moved back to the capital after completing her degree because, like Shrek, she feels most at home in the swamp. Foresman previously worked at Scoop News Group as an editorial fellow.

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