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Mason student-athletes undergo COVID-19 testing as they return to campus

August 13, 2020   /   by John Hollis

George Mason University is doing its part to limit the spread of COVID-19, as on Monday, Aug. 10, it began testing returning athletes. 

Roughly 30 Patriot student-athletes were screened at the Field House on the Fairfax Campus in a collaborative effort between the Athletics department and Mason’s Center for Applied Proteomics and Molecular Medicine (CAPMM) and College of Education and Human Development (CEHD). It was the first of several scheduled screenings for student-athletes preparing to return to campus. 

“It’s a return to campus safely,” Athletic Director Brad Edwards said. “We feel like we’ve developed a pretty comprehensive system of protocols for the safety and well-being of our student-athletes, many of whom want to compete and not to lose a year.” 

Tests were scheduled in time slots five minutes apart to avoid unnecessary gathering.  Each student-athlete filled out the required paperwork before being led into a tent to wash their hands and have their noses swabbed by K. Alex Hodge, a research specialist and medical technologist with CAPMM. Because it was an antigen test, the nasal swabs were inserted just a small distance inside the nose, in contrast with the nasopharyngeal swabs used for the more intrusive Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) testing that requires deeper insertion. 

The student-athletes had already undergone PCR testing—in addition to 14 days of quarantine—prior to arriving back on campus. Antigen tests can determine whether a person has the virus or has previously had it and remains contagious. 

The men’s basketball team, which moved back into the residence halls the previous weekend, was the first athletics team to make its way over the Field House. Senior guard Ian Boyd was the first student-athlete to be screened when he arrived a little after 9 a.m., but was soon joined by a number of teammates. 

“It’s definitely different and going to take an adjustment,” senior forward Greg Calixte said of the new campus reality. “But we’re just excited to be back and looking forward to hopefully having a season.” 

“It’s different,” Coach Dave Paulsen said, “but it’s exciting to have them back. They’re excited to be back on campus and to be back with their teammates.” 

Hodge, who was fully geared up in personal protective equipment, tested each of the swabs inside the Field House lab belonging to Margaret Jones, a professor of Kinesiology within CEHD and the director of Mason’s Patriot Performance Lab. Test results were back by the day’s end. 

“This is a great collaboration between CAPMM in the College of Science, the College of Education and Human Development and the athletics department to help see to it that Mason students safely return to school and play,” said Emanuel “Chip” Petricoin, a University Professor and the co-director of CAPMM.