BBI’s Husky Coronavirus Testing (HCT) Team: 'The scale of their impact is amongst the most significant mobilizations in our university’s history.' UW President Ana Mari Cauce
Members of BBI’s Husky Coronavirus Testing (HCT) Team were “truly, truly heroic” and “helped the university to continue our mission of public service throughout the pandemic,” UW President Ana Mari Cauce said June 8 at the university’s Distinguished Staff Award ceremony.
The HCT Team was honored for its innovation, one of five award categories; it was the only team award for 2023.
The team played a significant role to the UW’s COVID-19 Prevention Plan, which was launched in September of 2020. Tests were conducted at all three campuses, serving approximately 50,000 students and nearly 60,000 employees.
“The scale of their impact is amongst the most significant mobilizations in our university’s history,” Cauce said. “From developing new methods to test thousands of community members, to devising and implementing complex operations, the Husky Coronavirus Testing Team saved lives. They saved lives.”
The team’s nomination cited the complexity of the program – including logistics, staffing, personal protective equipment (PPE), programming, communications/marketing, and integration with UW systems – “demanded innovative thinking, computational creativity, coordination, and action.”
Moreover, one of the team’s priorities was accessibility to testing, such as the delivery of testing kits to households of participants unable to come to campus due to illness or mobility restrictions. These accommodations demanded innovation and collaboration across HCT Team management, operations, and administrative staff, and making revisions to procedures, thereby ensuring all members of the UW community have access to rapid and reliable testing.
“Our BBI lab played an essential role in testing samples, as well as created operating systems using sample collection kiosks, drop boxes, and courier-delivered swab kits to acquire samples for testing,” said Dr. Lea Starita, assistant professor of Genome Sciences. “This also enabled the acquisition of crucial sequencing data for tracking SARS-CoV-2 variants. Analyses of these data, in turn, informed local and state health policy experts on the evolution of the virus.”
A major obstacle the HCT Team overcame was the extreme demand for testing on campus during the Omicron surge of early 2022, when testing volumes tripled over just a few weeks. During January and February of that year, clinical, laboratory, technical, appropriately trained administrative staff, and others were mobilized to work at UW testing kiosks and the BBI laboratory to ensure that the UW community had access to rapid and reliable testing.
Many of the 200-plus team members received experience for their future studies and careers in a wide range of professions, including public health, epidemiology, communications, supply chain management, computational science, and other fields.
“We were faced with a significant challenge to provide free Covid-19 testing via PCR or Rapid Antigen Testing to the entire university community,” said Zack Acker, manager of the team’s program operations. “We also faced the responsibility to deliver the best possible data to university leadership to help guide informed and safe decisions regarding the re-opening of all three UW campuses. Our partnerships with several UW offices, especially Environmental Health and Safety and Housing and Food Services, were paramount.”
While the nomination form accommmodated only 20 of the 200-plus HCT Team members, here is a more complete list:
Tammy Nguyen, Zack Acker, Kathryn Barker , Julia Bennett, Sabrina Best, Ben Capodanno, Ruben Crew, Maanasee Deshmukh, Jasmine Duong, Brenna Ehmen, Abi Elerding, Chris Frazar, Luis Gamboa, Danielle Giroux, Rochella Gomes, Katherine Gomeztagle-Johann, Peter Han, Alex Harteloo, Sarah Heidl, Lauren Huynh, Kristina Hyman, Natalie K. Lo, Anahita Kiavand, Nola Klemfuss, Mai Le, Peggie Lee, Kyle Luiten , Kathryn McCaffrey, Evan McDermot, Devon McDonald, Amanda Morgan Casto, Jordan Opsahl, Dean Owen, Ben Pelle, Brian Pfau, Mason Post, Robin Prentice, Lani Regelbrugge, David Reinhart, Leslie Rodriguez-Salas , Gwen Roote, Erica Ryke , Obsa Seid, Nahum Smith, Sanjay Srivatsan , Jeremy Stone, Machiko Threlkeld, Melissa Truong, Sadie van den Bogaerde, Katrina van Raay, Cameron Wenman, Caitlin Wolf, Tessa Wright, William Zhong, Anisa Abdi, Brandon Apostol, LolaRose Aselin, Ana Asuncion, Elizaveta Bell, Kara Celestine, Kailey Chiu, Dream Dasgupta, Hannah Diaz, Hadar Dolev, Lindsay Engelbert, Annabelle Fryer, Mandy Gao, Nicole Green, Abigail Hu, Isaac James Nelson, Luke Johnson, Emma Kaivo-Houlton, Natalia Kariotis, Jasleen Kaur Sidhu, Mackenzie Komeshak, Ann Krappman, Ankita Kundu, Caitlyn Kwong, Tharu Lansakaranayake, Kevin Lau, Trevor Leung, Hsien-Jui Lin, Lilian Liu, Katherine Lochner, Michael Ly, Liem Nguyen, McKenzi Norris, Shiuli Pemmaraju, Cayden Phan, Hana Phan, Dylan Renard, Ashleigh Rumbaoa, Monique Samodien, Eloise Santa Cruz, Clarissa Seaholm, Daanya Siddiqui, Kirsten Strous, Ashley Subijanto, Sidney Sun, Brooke Szurgot, Emily Ta, Loveleen Tripathi, Wayne Van Ong, Kino Watanabe, Rino Watanabe, Willa Widmann, Elizabeth Williams, Naomi Yoo