UW Professor works to test COVID 19 samples

On Friday, Governor Ron DeSantis issued two additional Executive Orders placing restrictions...
On Friday, Governor Ron DeSantis issued two additional Executive Orders placing restrictions on travelers to the state in an effort to help prevent the possible spread of COVID-19. (MGN)(WJHG)
Published: Mar. 29, 2020 at 5:37 PM CDT
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With the rise of COVID-19 cases in the State of Wyoming, the need for testing the cases also rises.

Dr. Brant Schumaker, A University of Wyoming Associate Professor and Veterinary Epidemiologist... has given his time and talent to the Wyoming Public Health Laboratory.

"We had 174 samples come in yesterday (March 28), that are currently being processed right now. We're well into the upper three figures, and about ready to cross into the thousands," Schumaker said.

Dr. Schumaker works at the State Veterinary Lab, that normally sends bacterial isolates for sequencing, analysis and tracking of outbreaks that effect animals and people. Outbreaks as recent as the 2019 Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). CWD spread to a large number of Wyoming elk during Fall 2019.

Students in Dr. Schumaker's department have also been in the process of testing. Students are encouraged to participate undergraduate research opportunities.

"We're in this business as professors to be working with students," Dr. Schumaker said. "It's been great. Most of the science labs at the University of Wyoming do undergraduate research, which us just fantastic, and my lab's no exception. So we brought over two of our undergraduate technicians to the laboratory, I have a visiting scientist from Ethiopia that we're able to put in the process as well. It's been a really good working relationship, everyone's working really hard to get through these sample, and they've been working really well together."

The public health lab has active plans to increase the lab's capacity, but the biggest concern is the shortage of supplies. From swabs to RNA extraction kits, the lab needs more supplies as COVID-19 spreads.

"The important thing to know is that while the capacity can increase, we need providers out there to prioritize testing those individuals that are in the highest risk groups. That includes symptomatic people, hospitalized patients, healthcare workers, and individuals with home morbidity that makes them higher risk," said Schumaker.

Dr. Schumaker has been working out of the lab for the duration of UW's extended spring break, and it's back to school on March 30.

A big benefit of online teaching is Dr. Schumaker can teach wherever he needs to.

He is training others in the lab to perform duties in his role, while making sure his students are still learning.