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State honors Tech COVID-19 lab

Adam Johnson/Brockit Photography State Rep. Greg Markkanen, R-Hancock, presents Michigan Technological University Board Chair Brenda Ryan with a tribute honoring the first anniversary of the Tech COVID-19 lab at Friday’s Board of Trustees meeting.

HOUGHTON — The state of Michigan honored Michigan Technological University’s COVID-19 lab to commemorate its one-year anniversary.

At Friday’s Board of Trustees meeting, State Rep. Greg Markkanen presented Board Chair Brenda Ryan with a tribute commending the lab. In addition to Markkanen, the resolution was signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist and State Sen. Ed McBroom.

“This has been an incredible achievement known around the state,” said Markkanen, R-Hancock.

Tech’s is the only campus-based COVID testing lab in the state. Over the past year, the lab has performed about 34,000 tests for Michigan Tech and the broader community, operations manager Karl Meingast said last week.

It became the largest COVID testing lab in the Upper Peninsula, taking samples from nursing homes 100 miles away, the tribute said. At one point, it was processing the most tests per day of any COVID lab in the state.

Photo provided by Michigan Technological University Michigan Tech’s facility is the only university campus-based COVID-19 testing lab in the state.

The tribute commended Tech for the lab’s “rapid implementation at the start of the pandemic with the ability to perform high-volume COVID-19 testing with rapid turnaround results.”

“The lab has had a dramatic and significant impact on the health and health care of residents in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan,” it read.

Ryan thanked Markkanen, a 2000 Tech graduate, at Friday’s meeting for his role in initiating the lab.

“Michigan Tech is pleased to have been able to provide this resource to the Upper Peninsula during such a challenging time,” Ryan said. “The faculty, staff and students who have worked so hard to establish and operate the COVID-19 testing lab are the true heroes in this story and we thank them for all of their hard work over the past year.”

The tribute recognized a number of faculty and staff, including Caryn Heldt, David Dixon, Cary Gottlieb, Carsten Külheim, Stephen Techtmann, Jennifer Sanders, Cathy Jenich, Karl Meingast, Brooke Goulette, Mike Abbott, Natasha Chopp, Emmett Golde and Karyn Fay.

“We are incredibly proud of the work of the MTU COVID-19 testing lab,” McBroom, R-Vulcan, said in a release. “When the pandemic was just starting to take hold last year, university faculty and administration had the foresight to see that the epidemic had the potential to destroy a way of life for the students and the university community, as well as the entire western Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Their impressive contribution to a more safe and secure quality of life for residents is to be commended.”

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