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CLEVELAND (WJW) – A dozen vending machines at Case Western Reserve University now dispense free PCR COVID-19 tests instead of the typical snacks for students and staff.

“This is our saliva test and inside it has a tube and a funnel and the instruction sheet,” said Megan Koeth, executive director of the Department of Resiliency at Case Western Reserve University. “It’s a biohazard bag. So when they complete the test, they’re going to take the tube and the bag and drop it back off in the same location. We have bins and we come around and pick them up.”

The once underperforming machines now hold about 200 test kits each. Each test kit was created by the university’s lab, which Koeth estimates will process about 5,000 COVID tests per week.

“These are PCR tests that are done in-house by our lab here at Case, so you do get your results within 12 to 24 hours,” said Koeth. “We do have a really rapid turnaround. We didn’t have to go out and purchase tests to do this. We just had to purchase supplies to collect saliva.”

Koeth said the goal of the program, still in its first week, is to provide easier access to fast, and convenient testing as the campus, like much of Northeast Ohio, experiences its high surge in COVID cases.

The testing option also provides a way for the university’s medical students to test more frequently.

Students, who returned to classes Monday, still have the option of scheduling a traditional testing appointment with a health professional instead of using the test kits provided by vending machines.

“After coming home from winter break, it was so hard to find tests but it’s amazing that it’s all over campus,” said one university staff member.

Koeth said the university planned to add testing kits to vending machines prior to the latest COVID case surge.

“Every place was out, but here at Case it’s just free if you’re a student or faculty so that’s really convenient,” said a student.

Plans are also underway to add more machines to the campus fleet, including a rapid test option.

“We’ve had really good feedback, especially among our students who that was one of their biggest complaints about our testing was that our traditional hours are 9 to 3to be tested,” said Koeth.
“This allows them to test at any time in the privacy of their residence hall, their apartments or their houses. Our main goal is to keep our students in our classroom and our faculty and staff here on campus. Allowing it to be in a vending machine helps us with that living with COVID idea.”

Testing kits in the vending machine are not for public use. They’re only for university students and staff.