STEPHENVILLE, Texas — Tarleton State University donated 110 COVID-19 sampling kits on Wednesday, April 8 to the Stephenville Medical and Surgical Clinic, the only Erath County facility conducting drive-through, appointment-only testing for individuals with coronavirus symptoms.
The sampling kits were rushed to Tarleton by the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory in College Station and assembled from lab supplies usually reserved for pigs, cows and chickens at A&M’s four diagnostic labs across the state.
“We appreciate the dedication of those on the front lines working to keep our community safe,” said Tarleton President James L. Hurley. “We’re extremely pleased to share resources available through The Texas A&M University System to help address this worldwide emergency on a local level.”
Erath County Health Authority Dr. Jeffrey Moore and Stephenville Public Health Officer Dr. Kelly Doggett, along with local physicians Benjamin Marcum and Miranda Nash and their teams, are “working around the clock to provide the best care and service possible,” Dr. Hurley said. “Donating these much-needed kits allows us to lend a helping hand.”
Dr. Marcum, a physician at the Stephenville Medical and Surgical Clinic, said the donation from Tarleton and the A&M System will help identify more individuals who are carrying the virus and help keep more people protected.
“We are thankful for a system of higher learning that is proactive while at the same time generous. We are honored to partner with them to stem the impact of this virus on our families and neighbors,” Marcum said.
Doggett concurs. “It’s awesome that Texas A&M is stepping up and doing this. Tests are few and far between, and we’re very grateful for the support of Tarleton and the A&M System. They are integral to the growth and success of our community.
“As a Tarleton alum, I bleed purple, so this makes me extremely proud of what the university is doing.”
Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp said the veterinary experts who track disease outbreaks in animals were ready to assist with the current human pandemic.
“No one has ever done this before, but tough times call for creative measures,” Sharp said.
Dr. Bruce Akey, director of the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory, said he sent out a plea to his labs in Amarillo, Center and Gonzales and they began overnighting supplies late last week.
“We assembled the supplies into sampling kits here in our College Station lab,” Akey said. “We know that the 2,000 we came up with may not seem like much when there are 20-plus million at-risk Texans who may need testing, but if you need to be tested and you can’t because they don’t have this kit, then it’s a pretty big deal to you and your family. So we are doing what we can right now.”
Testing kits did cost $4-$5 if ordered in bulk before the pandemic depleted existing stock. Now these simple supplies are back-ordered for months, crippling efforts to test for COVID-19.
“Our goal was to get these sampling kits in clinics or hospitals where they are most needed as soon as possible,” Akey said. “We pulled out all stops.”