The University of New Hampshire (UNH) has created a robust testing platform to test for COVID-19 infections. Between August and December 2020, the UNH COVID Lab has processed over 300,000 samples, implemented a HIPAA-compliant and secure database, and can perform CLIA-certified COVID diagnostic testing. To continue serving the New Hampshire community, UNH is making its testing capacity available more broadly beyond its students, staff, faculty, and contractors. This page outlines the different testing available and the prioritization plan in the event our existing capacity is met.
All testing requires that supervised or administered anterior nasal swabbing is performed by customer and using materials specified or provided by the UNH lab and use of UNH software for intake and labeling (to be provided to customer). Customer is responsible for securing informed consent for procedures, and tests must be ordered by a qualified medical provider. Customer is responsible for transportation of samples to UNH. UNH has implemented three distinct testing platforms and protocols described below:
This technique is a molecular test for the virus (as opposed to antigen testing, which identifies a protein on the surface of the virus particle). A diagnostic PCR test is frequently required to travel or be admitted into restricted settings. UNH has the capacity to perform up to 10,000 PCR tests each day. UNH runs these CLIA-certified tests under an EUA.
- Pooling/Screening: Unless otherwise stated, all initial UNH PCR tests are pooled at a rate of 4:1, as approved by the Centers for Disease Control. Your sample will be pooled with three other samples and run through the PCR instrument as a single test. If the pooled sample is suspected of containing COVID, we return to the four individual samples and re-run them individually to definitively determine which sample(s) have COVID.
- Diagnostic: In high-priority instances, and when rapid or same day turnaround might be required an individual sample can be run directly in the PCR instrument.
This technique uses a colorimetric (color-changing) assay to determine the likely presence of COVID in a sample. RT-LAMP has been used to test the UNH-Manchester and UNH School of Law in Concord since September 2020 and is a robust screening technique. We recommend LAMP for organizations who would like to provide their staff regular surveillance screening. LAMP itself is purely for screening and is not run under CLIA conditions. Positive LAMP tests can, for a fee, be sent to Durham for confirmatory diagnostic testing (see 1b in the RT-PCR section above).
Starting in February 2020, UNH will provide state-of-the-art high-throughput viral genomic screening. Viral genomic screening is another mechanism for molecular identification of the COVID virus and can also be used to look for genetic mutations of the virus. THIS TECHNIQUE DOES NOT SCREEN HUMAN DNA. This technique can be used to track changes in the virus within a community or as a confirmatory test if the patient is exhibiting symptoms consistent with COVID but when results from PCR tests are inconclusive or negative. With reports of the COVID virus mutating, this instrument provides certainty of whether a patient is infected with COVID and precisely what variant the sample contains. This technique is also practiced under an existing EUA.
In order to meet the significant need for COVID testing in New Hampshire, UNH has set forth the following prioritization when considering bringing on entities who need screening. Estimated maximum capacity in Durham is 72K per week for pooled RT-PCR testing, and in Manchester is 18K per week for RT-LAMP (unpooled). Categories listed below are prioritized from 1 (highest) to 5 (lowest). DHHS has requested up to 6000 RT-PCR tests per week. Should DHHS require additional capacity, the lab will make it available as space opens up in other categories.
- USNH students, staff, faculty and contractors, tenants, visitors and members of the extended UNH community (including first responders, state government, local government and public works, local school systems, community partners serving our students/faculty/staff).
- Any group provided to UNH by the NH Department of Health and Human Services under a direct contract between DHHS and UNH, including but not limited to long-term care facilities, shelters, jails.
- New Hampshire-based essential critical infrastructure workers and students (e.g. healthcare, education, law-enforcement, first responders, school systems, etc.).
- Essential critical infrastructure workers and students outside of New Hampshire.
Equitable Access Policy
To ensure the needs of testing are available and reasonably accessible, UNH will use a blind bid process and limit contracts to 90 days. The bid process will be as follows:
- UNH will create a form to be used by USNH procurement (USNH to identify appropriate FTE). The form will identify the potential organization via a checkbox for one of the five categories above as well as the expected testing volume and duration.
- Priority within each category will be given to the largest commitments (sample number * duration). We seek to maximize the utilization rate with the fewest orders. This makes lab operations manageable without increasing the cost of offering to third parties.
- USNH will pass along all bids for work to COVID Lab leadership blinded to the actual identity but including the category selection. COVID Lab leadership will select customers based on maximizing lab utilization over the fewest organizations in each of the five categories.
- If excess capacity remains, COVID Lab leadership will maximize utilization-based commitment size.
- If excess capacity still remains, COVID Lab leadership will accept new testing customers on a rolling basis until lab capacity is maximized.
- Contract length will be for 90 days but will be automatically renewed absent prior written termination by either party. Every 90 days a solicitation for testing, and the approximate remaining capacity, will be released on a UNH website.
- COVID Lab leadership reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to discontinue testing services for any reason including but not limited to failure to timely pay, failure to work successfully with laboratory logistics or personnel, or failure to meet commitment size.