WT to receive COVID-19 testing kits


West Texas A&M University President Walter Wendler today announced that about 100 COVID-19 testing kits — made from supplies from veterinary labs — will be donated to WT’s Student Medical Services, thanks to Texas A&M System Chancellor John Sharp and unprecedented collaboration within The Texas A&M University System.

“It’s very heartening that the A&M veterinary labs, including ours in Amarillo, were able to step up and find this innovative way to offer aid to people around the state during this pandemic,” Wendler said. “We will use the kits to serve the wider WT community including our Student Medical Services office.

“The Texas A&M University System’s responsiveness is powerful,” Wendler continued. “Making these kits available will assist health care providers in addressing the COVID-19 challenges in the Panhandle.”

The viral sampling kits will be rushed to WT by the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory in College Station. The kits were assembled from lab supplies usually reserved for pigs, cows and chickens at A&M’s four diagnostic labs across the state.

Chancellor Sharp said the veterinary experts who track disease outbreaks in animals were ready to assist with the current human pandemic.

“No one has ever done this before, but tough times call for creative measures,” said John Sharp, chancellor of the Texas A&M University System.

Dr. Bruce Akey, director of the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory, said he sent out a plea for supplies to his labs in Amarillo, Center and Gonzales and they began overnighting the supplies late last week.

“We assembled the supplies into sampling kits here in our College Station lab,” Akey said. “We know that the 2,000 we came up with may not seem like much when there are 20-plus million Texans at risk that may need testing, but if you need to be tested and you can’t right now because they don’t have this kit then it’s a pretty big deal to you and your family. So we are doing what we can right now.”

The kits consist of a swab, a vial with transport media to preserve the sample in the vial, and a bag. The components of the kits are approved by Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for use in sampling humans for the COVID-19 virus. They usually cost about $4 to $5 if you were to order them in bulk before the pandemic swept through the existing stock. Now, these simple supplies are back-ordered for months, crippling efforts to test humans for COVID-19.

“We hope to get these sampling kits in the hospitals or clinics where they are most needed as soon as possible,” Akey said. “We are pulling out all the stops.”

Amarillo’s lab contributed swabs and vials, Akey said.

“They did have some of these supplies in amounts that they could do without for a few months,” he said.

Akey reiterated Sharp’s comments about the unprecedented nature of this collaboration between veterinary and human medical efforts.

“It doesn’t happen. Really,” Akey said. “These are unprecedented times. But you also don’t usually have people sewing their own masks at home. This is a perfect time for everyone to pitch in and do what they can.”

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