Students play key role in Brandeis’ COVID testing

Ido Dinnar is one of 12 students who work as site managers at Brandeis University’s COVID-19 campus testing centers 

Brandeis COVID-19 testing centerPhoto/Mike Lovett

Brandeis COVID-19 testing center

Ido Dinnar ’23, a student site manager at one of the Brandeis University’s COVID-19 testing centers, is on the front lines of ongoing efforts to monitor the prevalence — and minimize spread — of COVID-19 on campus. 

Dinnar likens the environment at the testing centers to that of a start-up.

“Things change fast as we try to speed up our processes and remain up to date with federal and state regulations,” Dinnar said. “I was very excited to help out from the start, and it’s been great interacting with the students, faculty and staff in this way. It’s fulfilling to help the community so directly.” 

Dinnar and the 75 other students working in Brandeis’ testing centers provide testing kits to students, faculty and staff, and collect and process samples that are then sent to the Broad Institute for analysis. 

The Broad Institute, an internationally renowned genetic research institute in nearby Cambridge, Mass., quickly ramped up last March to produce and analyze highly-accurate PCR tests. Brandeis was one of the first universities to get its asymptomatic community testing program with the Broad off the ground last summer; currently more than 100 colleges and universities are using the Broad’s tests to enable them to maintain campus life during the pandemic.  

“We’re incredibly fortunate to have such an accurate and precise tool as the Broad PCR tests right at our fingertips,” said Morgen Bergman, assistant provost for strategic initiatives, who oversees Brandeis’ testing program. “And none of this would be possible without our committed student leaders like Ido, who work to run our testing centers and model the importance of testing.”

Ido Dinnar receives COVID-19 vaccine
Photo/Molly Rose

Ido Dinnar receives his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine

Dinnar has been involved in the university’s COVID-19 testing efforts since last summer, initially checking in community members for their testing appointments and collecting nasal swab samples. 

In November, he applied to help testing centers as a student site manager, and is now one of  75  undergraduates working at the centers at Usdan Student Center and the Shapiro Student Center.

Since Brandeis started testing last summer, it has administered more than 104,000 tests to nearly 6,000 unique individuals on campus. So far, the campus community’s positive test rate has consistently been beneath that of Massachusetts, and also well below the average positive test rate for the state’s higher education institutions.

Test results typically arrive within 24 hours. Starting late last year, the university initiated a streamlined process for scheduling testing appointments and collecting samples. Community members can now drop off their samples at testing sites rather than having to collect them onsite (though on site sample collection is always available).

Brandeis regularly updates its health and safety guidelines and its COVID-19 testing protocol in accordance with state and federal guidelines.

Dinnar and other students who work in the testing center received their first COVID-19 vaccines last month, as part of an effort by the state of Massachusetts to vaccinate first-responders and health workers at the state’s colleges and universities. Dinnar will receive his second dose by mid-February and is part of the first phase of healthcare workers and first responders getting vaccinated, along with other student volunteers and staff who work around the clock to help keep the Brandeis community healthy and safe.

“Hopefully we will all be vaccinated relatively soon,” said Dinnar, a biology major and Health: Science, Society and Policy (HSSP) minor from Lexington, Mass. “The fact that I was able to get the vaccine shows that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.”

“I hope people continue to stay safe, get tested, do their trainings and daily health assessments,” Dinnar said. “We will eventually get through this.”

Categories: General, Student Life

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