College Basketball

Inside the NCAA Tournament bubble: 26,000 COVID-19 tests, 900 volunteers made it happen

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Indianapolis resident Ron Renforth won’t hear his name during the Men’s Basketball National Championship Game starting lineups, but from hotels to the IU Health Pathology Laboratory, he and a handful of volunteers transported daily COVID-19 tests at the NCAA Tournament.

“I was going anywhere, up to six hotels per hour,” Renforth said. “You can imagine the traffic downtown, and then trying to get everything back here on time to make sure each team would know its test results. It is literally hundreds of runs.”

At the front end of the testing process, players and coaches connected with IU Health volunteers each day for COVID-19 testing.

Brigham Young University set the standard of making the testing process fun, filming a video that went viral on social media. 

“There is a lot you can do in a couple of seconds, as a guy watching (players) swabbing their nose and cracking jokes,” IU Health pharmacy technician Jeryl Parhal said. “A lot of those guys are some hams. It was fun.”

Behind testing, the second most important defender inside the Indianapolis bubble was the “Safe Zone” tag created by Kinexon. This device was worn at all times by all members of the 68 teams throughout the NCAA Tournament. 

“We actually like to compare it to a domino,” Matt Bontorin, Kinexon marketing communications manager said. “This isn’t a tracking technology, it’s not tracking your location; what it’s doing really is just determining the distance and duration between one another.” 

“At the end of the day, if somebody does test positive for COVID-19, the local health department can look at that data and then evaluate who’s at high risk, who needs to quarantine,” Bontorin said.

From the first team to arrive at the 2021 NCAA Tournament through the national champions’ departure, IU Health’s Pathology lab will process 26,000 COVID-19 tests. 

This has been a championship effort across the Indianapolis medical community.

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