IU Health’s tournament testing game plan

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — As Indianapolis prepares for the Sweet Sixteen, there are nearly a thousand workers and volunteers making sure the tournament continues safely.

It’s a team inside and supporting the IU Health pathology lab where all of the COVID-19 tests are processed. It’s thousands of COVID-19 tests each and every day. IU Health is handling the tests for every player, coach, support staff, official to make sure our country can get lost in the madness of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament during the pandemic.

The process is streamlined, because it has to be.

“It’s mission critical. If we are able to detect the virus as part of this tournament, we can ensure that we’re isolating players or coaches or staff or anyone else associated with the tournament,” Clark Day, vice president of laboratory services at IU Health, said.

Before the Sweet Sixteen games start, IU Health’s pathology lab has already completed more than 18,000 COVID-19 tests.

“That peaked at 3,600 over one 24-hour period,” Day said.

And when Day said 24-hour, he meant it. IU Health’s lab is operating way outside of typical business hours.

“Tests come in, results come in at all hours of the day and night,” Michele Sansaya, IU Health’s Chief Quality and Safety Officer, said.

The team is handling it like a well-trained top seed offense. Instead of passing the ball around the court, it’s collecting tests, transporting them, and processing them. Then the jump shot is results in six to eight hours. That’s thanks to the same type of preparation the teams went through before arriving to the tournament.

“Just like practicing for a game, once you get in the game, things can be a little more intense and a little different, so you have to react in the moment. Our team has responded with enthusiasm and their expertise have been on full display,” Day said.

The nearly 850 volunteers and more than 50 full-time staff say it’s worth it to bring this sports tradition back for the millions of fans.

“To be able to have a sense of hope and return to some normalcy our ability to perform this testing is enabling that,” Day said.

“To be able to be a part of this and put something on that wasn’t able to happen last year is incredibly important to us and we’re just honored to be a part of it,” Sansaya said.

By the time a champion is crowned, IU Health staff said the lab will have processed somewhere between 25,000 and 28,000 tests during their partnership with the NCAA here in Indy.