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FAMU's new partnership to increase COVID-19 testing is a major step for HBCU's, Big Bend area

Posted at 11:19 PM, Oct 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-08 23:23:07-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — It's all about increasing testing at HBCUs. The Bragg testing site is not only a major testing site in our area, it will act as a testing hub for over seven other HBCUs.

They say this could change how we test people locally.

"All eyes are on us," said Dr. Violeta Tsolva, a professor and the program leader at Viticulture and Developmental Biology at FAMU.

It's a giant step for Florida A&M University and HBCU's across the east coast.

Still in the making, this former viticulture and small fruit research lab will soon be transformed into a COVID-19 testing lab.

Looking to increase coronavirus testing on the campuses of Historically Black Colleges and University's Thermo Fischer Scientific put up $25 million to fund labs and diagnostic kits for testing.

With lab results taking up to 48 hours, Student Health Director Tanya Taytum says that with an in-house lab that time is almost cut in half.

"I'm hoping for closer to a 24-hour possibly 36-hour turnaround," said Tatum. "It can add to the number of people we're testing. It will certainly add to our surveillance testing amongst our employees and students, and still maintain the community site here so that everyone in the community can be tested."

Testing kits from seven HBCU's will make their way to this lab.

Housing it means more safety measures as people bring specimens in and out of the building.

"It's going to be a very different level of safety," Tsolva said. "That's why this suite has been selected because it's very well self-contained."

The setup similar to other labs in the center will have high-tech equipment that has already been ordered for use.

Once those arrive the University says they will immediately get to work.

"We'd like to have this up and running as soon as possible," Tatum said. "So hopefully fairly soon. "

To start they will only have four people in that designated lab. That includes a lab director, a manager, and two lab techs.

They say this is only a start if demand goes up they could bring on more staff.