Northwestern temporarily halts Color COVID-19 testing, students must test twice a week


Daily file photo by Tal Schatsky

The Donald P. Jacobs Center, which has served as Northwestern’s main testing center. The University announced Color testing will resume through both the Jacobs Center and pick-up sites across campus.

Tal Schatsky, Assistant Campus Editor

Northwestern is temporarily halting the COVID-19 testing system operated through Color laboratories and switching to a partnership with Abbott in response to weather-related shipping delays, according to a Sunday email from the University.

Over the past week, delays have caused many students’ tests to expire, rendering them invalid.

Until shipping services resume at a normal pace, students will test with Abbott’s BinaxNOW rapid antigen test and NAVICA app.

While the BinaxNOW test has received an Emergency Use Authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration from use on symptomatic individuals, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called BinaxNOW’s ability to identify the virus in asymptomatic individuals “not well characterized,” finding its sensitivity rate for these individuals to be 35.8 percent.
Abbott released a statement when this data was published emphasizing BinaxNOW’s effectiveness at detecting the virus in the most contagious individuals, who are typically symptomatic. The statement included numbers that differed from the CDC study and found the asymptomatic sensitivity rate to be 78.6 percent. Abbott also emphasized the utility of a tool that delivers rapid results.

While partnering with Abbott, students are required to test at least twice per week with each test separated by at least one day, the email said. Students may opt to test more than twice per week.

The logistics of Abbott testing remain the same. The Donald P. Jacobs Center will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday for self-administered nasal swab testing. Unlike with Color testing, students do not need to make an appointment.

Students should look out for an email invitation to Abbott’s NAVICA results app, follow email instructions for setting up an account and arrive at the testing center with the app downloaded as well as their Wildcard and NetID.

Results will be available within 30 minutes of leaving the testing center and testing should take no longer than 15 minutes, the email said.

This story has been updated to include a statement from Abbott laboratories.

Correction: A previous version of this story mischaracterized a 64.2% estimated sensitivity rate of a BinaxNow test. The sensitivity rate refers to the company’s antigen test on symptomatic individuals, not its PCR test on asymptomatic individuals. The Daily regrets the error.

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Twitter: @binahschatsky

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