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UAA assembles COVID-19 kits for the state

Published: Sep. 21, 2020 at 4:10 PM AKDT|Updated: Sep. 21, 2020 at 6:12 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - When it comes to COVID-19, Alaska is the most tested state per capita, according to the Department of Health and Social Services. But it wasn’t that long ago that testing kits were in short supply.

University of Alaska Anchorage Associate Professor Brandon Briggs said one component that is still difficult to obtain nationally is called “viral transport media.” It’s the liquid that a sample is placed in after someone’s nose or cheek has been swabbed. According to Briggs, the viral transport media keeps the virus alive until it can be tested. Shortly after the pandemic began, the state asked UAA if it could make the transport media in its lab.

“It was through conversations with people at the Municipality of Anchorage as well as the state where we were able to actually pivot our particular lab and start making this viral transport media for the state and actually provide this, so we can keep up with the testing,” Briggs said.

Briggs said UAA has been manufacturing viral transport media since March and assembling the COVID-19 testing kits on campus since April. He said they’re averaging about a thousand kits a week, with a total of more than 30,000 that have been distributed around the state so far.

Briggs said the partnership has been good for the university and also the state.

“I think this is a really great example of how UAA has been able to engage with the community and support not only Anchorage but Alaska in general,” he said.

Briggs added the project has also proved to be a great learning tool for students.

“It’s a great experience for them but at the same time helping Alaska,” he said. “So I think it’s a great win-win.”

Copyright 2020 KTUU. All rights reserved.

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