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IU Health processing thousands of COVID-19 tests daily for NCAA tournament

Thousands of COVID-19 tests are processed at the IU Health Pathology Laboratory each day.
Credit: WTHR/Rich Van Wyk
The IU Health Pathology Laboratory is expected to process more than 18,000 COVID-19 tests by the end of the NCAA tournament.

INDIANAPOLIS — Far from the excitement and drama of March Madness, there is another team that's not on anyone's bracket. 13News got a look inside the laboratory that is processing the tens of thousands of COVID-19 tests that are helping keep, players, workers and fans safe. It is a huge, around-the-clock task.

Workers in IU Health's pathology lab are laboring 24-7, as they process COVID-19 tests. The results determine whether teams stay and play or go home.

Dr. Michele Saysana is IU Health's chief quality and safety officer.

"It is incredibly humbling to be able to help an organization that's put on an event like that and means so much to Indiana and the nation," Saysana said.

Athletes, coaches, team staff and game officials are tested every day. The numbers are staggering. The lab is processing about 2,100 tests a day. So far, they've run more than 18,000 tests. It will run 28,000 before the tournament is over.

Helping the laboratory workers are 850 volunteers who administer, transport and gather those thousands of tests. Results are ready in eight hours or less.

"There is some pressure," Saysana said. "There is a sense we have to deliver this so that we can keep this tournament safe. But in the end, we know if we do this well, we can keep the tournament safe."

Credit: WTHR/Rich Van Wyk
Dr. Michele Saysana, IU Health's chief quality and safety officer

"Should we happen to detect the virus, we run multiple confirmations to make sure it is the correct result," said Clark Day, IU Health's vice president of laboratory services.

Day has a seat in the Final Four command center. He watched the process work out when VCU and a handful of game officials were eliminated from the tournament because of positive test results.

"I wouldn't  say alarms went off, but the response was immediate," Day said.   "Nobody questioned it because of process in place."

With no other positive test results, it appears as if the virus was contained. Some believe that's an indication that precautions and restrictions put in place by the NCAA and local health officials are working.