The University Of Illinois’s Covid-19 Control Shows That Mass Testing Is The Answer

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The University of Illinois implemented an aggressive testing campaign to reign in the spread of Covid-19. The operation involves testing the entire student body and faculty twice per week—around fifteen thousand tests each day. Students tested positive are alerted and quarantined while the school grants building and facilities access to those who test negative. This testing regime illustrates how to conduct a nationwide testing campaign to overcome the Covid-19 pandemic.

The saliva based tests used by the school were developed by a university research team. Tests are free and are available at 17 on campus testing centers. Students are typically alerted of their test results within five hours of administration. Tests are being processed 24 hours a day on weekdays and nearly all day on weekends.

If a student or faculty member tests positive, they receive an alert immediately and must quarantine immediately. Additionally, the University allows students to enable bluetooth settings to track if they have been in close contact with a recently confirmed positive case. Those students are alerted and required to test immediately. A University app tied to student IDs moderates the whole process. This app also acts as a key to give negative students access to campus buildings and resources. 

How are these advances applicable to a nationwide project? It first shows that wide scale testing protocols are possible and effective. In a recent CNN article, I wrote about a testing plan to contain Covid-19. This plan includes testing the entire US population every three days, or about one hundred million tests per day. Simulations of this plan suggest eighty percent cuts in transmission.

The University of Illinois is seeing similar results in its reduction of transmission. After students returned to campus, positivity


Sentinels of ocean acidification impacts survived Earth’s last mass extinction

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Sentinels of ocean acidification impacts survived Earth's last mass extinction
Several species of planktonic gastropods, including five sea butterflies (shelled) and two sea angels (naked). Credit: Katja Peijnenburg, Erica Goetze, Deborah Wall-Palmer, Lisette Mekkes.

Two groups of tiny, delicate marine organisms, sea butterflies and sea angels, were found to be surprisingly resilient—having survived dramatic global climate change and Earth’s most recent mass extinction event 66 million years ago, according to research published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences led by Katja Peijnenburg from Naturalis Biodiversity Center in the Netherlands.

Sea butterflies and sea angels are pteropods, abundant, floating snails that spend their entire lives in the open ocean. A remarkable example of adaptation to life in the open ocean, these mesmerizing animals can have thin shells and a snail foot transformed into two wing-like structures that enable them to ‘fly’ through the water.

Sea butterflies have been a focus for global change research because they make their shells of aragonite, a form of calcium carbonate that is 50 percent more soluble than calcite, which other important open ocean organisms use to construct their shells. As their shells are susceptible to dissolving in more acidified ocean water, pteropods have been called “canaries in the coal mine,” or sentinel species that signal the impact of ocean acidification.

With some pteropods having thin shells and others having only partial or absent shells, such as the sea angels, their fossil record is patchy. Abundant pteropod fossils are only known from 56 million years ago onward and mostly represent the fully-shelled sea butterflies. These observations led to the notion that evolutionarily, pteropods are a relatively recent group of gastropods.

Sentinels of ocean acidification impacts survived Earth's last mass extinction
Authors Katja Peijnenburg (left) and Erica Goetze (right) at work collecting zooplankton on the AMT22 cruise. Credit: Katja Peijnenburg and Erica Goetze

An international team of researchers sampled 21 pteropod species