On the first day of the University of New Hampshire’s (UNH) coronavirus (COVID-19) self-testing program, numerous student-completed tests were misplaced.
The blunder comes just days after the arrival of thousands of UNH students to UNH’s Durham campus, and on the day that the university opened their new, fully operational COVID-19 testing lab located at Health and Wellness.
On the night of Monday, Aug. 31, the day of the lab’s inception, approximately 250 student tests were lost and went untested.
In a statement from UNH spokesperson Erika Mantz, she explained that there was an issue with the transfer between the eight collection boxes on campus and the testing lab.
“We learned earlier today that a transportation and collection error Monday night led some samples to go untested,” Mantz said. “More than 3,000 samples were collected and successfully processed yesterday…About 8% of the students who submitted tests were asked to re-submit a sample and more than half have already done so. We regret the inconvenience this caused for students but appreciate their quick response and cooperation.”
All affected students were sent an email the next day, Sept. 1, by Vice Provost for Innovation and New Ventures Marc Sedam explaining the situation.
“We had a transportation and collection error last night that led some samples to go untested,” Sedam said. “We were just made aware of the situation and are asking you to re-submit a sample so we can generate information to you within the original results window. I apologize for the inconvenience and we are prioritizing this re-test.”
In the email, Sedam instructed the students that they were required to go to the Whittemore Center from 8 a.m. to noon or to UNH Innovation from noon to 9 p.m. to get retested. They were provided with new test kits and labels and were not forced to use their existing sets.
One of the 250 students that had to get retested was UNH junior Keegan Demers. Demers is a part of the Paul College of Business and Economics, so his allotted drop-off time was Monday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Between those times, he says that his experience with the collection box wasn’t a positive one.
“Me and my roommate went to drop our tests off at Stillings…when we got there the woman told us to put our tests in the shoe box,” Demers said. “The shoe box was on top of the actual drop off box for the tests, and it was already more than filled up with tests. When I went to put mine in the box, five others fell off and I had to put them back in.”
Demers said that when he received the email to get retested, it was already around 2:30 p.m. so he had a limited amount of time to go to UNH Innovation before they closed. When he arrived, he said that he inquired about the exact reason for the misplacement of the tests.
“I asked (a man) at (UNH Innovation) about what happened to my test and he said, ‘Let’s just say it was a glitch in the matrix and just leave it at that,’ and that’s all he said,” Demers said.
UNH senior Jarod Emirzian, another student that had their self-test mislaid, had similar frustrations concerning the transparency of the university.
“There was no real explanation for why they lost (the test) or if it would happen again,” Emirzian said.
Despite the student frustration, all 250 students have now been retested and there have been no more reports of lost student tests since the incident.