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Environmental Factor

Environmental Factor

Your Online Source for NIEHS News

February 2021

COVID-19 testing staff greeted with tasty thanks

In a grassroots effort, Division of the National Toxicology Program volunteers surprised testers with an edible expression of gratitude.

For the past six months, a crew on the NIEHS campus has tested asymptomatic staff for COVID-19. All staff are encouraged to get tested, whether they must come in to work in the labs, animal care facilities, security, and offices, or work from home. On Jan. 21, another crew, this one from the Toxicology Branch in the Division of the National Toxicology Program (DNTP), expressed their thanks by bringing coffee, juice, fruit, bagels, and pastries for the testing staff to enjoy.

Kristen Ryan stands with COVID-19 Testing Drive-Thru sign Ryan designs and coordinates research on potential toxicity and carcinogenicity of various agents that are nominated for study by the National Toxicology Program. (Photo courtesy of Diane Spencer)

Rain or shine, and whether the mercury rises to triple digits or fails to break freezing, the crew works from a temporary test site in a parking lot, for 19 hours spread over four days each week. In December, a heated shelter was erected in a single weekend. Beginning Monday, Dec. 21, the testers received some protection from winter weather.

Toxicologist Kristen Ryan, Ph.D., from the DNTP Systems Toxicology Group, brainstormed the plan and received donations from that group and others in the division. “We are so appreciative of what they do for us,” she said.

The gesture was warmly received. “The treats were greatly enjoyed,” said Julie Nixon, emergency management program specialist in the Operations and Security Branch. “About 10 folks share the duties, no matter the weather. They provide a vital service that helps NIEHS guard against workplace transmission of the coronavirus.”

As of mid-January, the crew had performed more than 7,500 tests to asymptomatic staff over the course of six months. In all that time, only two individuals tested positive.

Ryan and her fellow volunteers ensured that each item was individually wrapped and provided in a safe manner. They expressed delight at being able to show their appreciation to the crew.

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