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Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Begins COVID-19 Testing at Emma Willard School

Two historic Troy institutions are teaming up to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the community. Weekly surveillance testing of all Emma Willard School students, faculty, and staff is now being conducted by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

This collaboration between the local schools streamlines the testing process and reduces the wait time for results for Emma Willard, and it demonstrates the capability of Rensselaer to help external partners fight the pandemic.

Emma Willard School began weekly surveillance testing of day students and employees last fall as a part of its COVID-19 mitigation measures, utilizing a variety of testing partners. As boarding students returned to campus in January 2021, the number of individuals being tested each week grew, and the school looked for ways to improve the process. 

Since August of 2020, Rensselaer has been conducting widespread surveillance testing of faculty, staff, and students on the Institute campus as part of a multi-pronged mitigation strategy that has effectively limited the spread of COVID-19. To date, the university has processed more than 140,000 surveillance tests of Rensselaer community members.

In November 2020, Rensselaer announced a partnership with St. Peter’s Health Partners to establish a Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendment (CLIA) overflow lab at the Institute under the St. Peter’s license. This designation enabled tests conducted by Rensselaer to be used as diagnostic tests for public health reporting, and it extended the capability of the university to offer testing to other institutions and organizations in the Capital Region.

When Emma Willard School became aware of Rensselaer’s testing partnerships in the community, they reached out to determine whether a collaboration would be possible. The partnership with Emma Willard is the first full-scale surveillance testing program Rensselaer has launched at an external institution. All students, faculty, and staff at Emma Willard are tested once per week, with results returned within 24 hours of when they arrive at the Rensselaer lab.

Emma Willard School nursing and IT staff trained on-site at Rensselaer, and Jeffrey Miner, the assistant vice president for information services at the Institute, visited the Emma Willard campus to coordinate the technical set-up. “The partnership has been extremely positive,” shares Director of Nursing Jennifer Bliss, RN. “Our turnaround time for testing has been greatly reduced and having a local partner has alleviated the need for shipping samples to a testing facility.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has forced changes to our daily life and has disrupted our normal routines at work, at school, and home. As good citizens, it is our duty, regardless of our campus boundaries, to work together to assist each other in improving the health and safety protocols for all members of our community,” said Curtis Powell, vice president for human resources at Rensselaer. “This partnership with Emma Willard is a win-win for Rensselaer and the broader Capital Region community. It will serve as a model for other surveillance testing programs we plan to launch, and we are very excited about the optimism it brings for our collective future.”

Collaborations are nothing new for the two institutions. For about 10 years, Emma Willard School students have been connecting with mentors at Rensselaer to complete their Signature capstone projects. Recent work has included a study of the Lake George ecosystem, analyzing bone quality in diabetics, and researching the metabolic mechanisms of Bacteroide in the human colon. These connections speak to the atmosphere of collaboration that is present in Troy and the surrounding area.

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About Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Founded in 1824, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is America’s first technological research university. Rensselaer encompasses five schools, 32 research centers, more than 145 academic programs, and a dynamic community made up of more than 7,600 students and over 100,000 living alumni. Rensselaer faculty and alumni include more than 145 National Academy members, six members of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, six National Medal of Technology winners, five National Medal of Science winners, and a Nobel Prize winner in Physics. With nearly 200 years of experience advancing scientific and technological knowledge, Rensselaer remains focused on addressing global challenges with a spirit of ingenuity and collaboration. To learn more, please visit www.rpi.edu.
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    • Jeffrey Miner of RPI assists Emma Willard School nursing staff Jennifer Bliss and Jennifer Mazzariello in setting up for testing

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