Simulated MMA training cruise relies on testing help from JAX

CASTINE  A partnership with The Jackson Laboratory and Guilford-based Puritan Medical Products is making it possible for graduating Maine Maritime Academy seniors to participate in apier-side training exerciseaboard the school’straining ship State of Maine. 

In May, the academy’s leaders announced the normal summer training cruises would have to be canceled. But that leftsome senior engineering and navigation students,who still needed to accruefinal hours of sea time and experience required by the U.S. Coast Guardin order to obtain their unlimited license credentials and their degrees, high and dry. 

The academy received approval for the plan from the U.S. Coast Guard in late May and preparation for the “fast cruise”  as in held fast  isunderway. A total of 60 students, faculty and ship’s crew will be double-tested for COVID-19 prior to boarding the ship. 

Faculty and crew members were scheduled to begin testing on June 22. Testing for participating students will begin on July 2. The cruise officially begins on July 8 and will end Aug.4. The cruise will be contained  with no one leaving or boarding  in order to maintain cordon sanitaire status throughout the six-week training period. 

The tests will be conducted using specimen collection kits fromPuritan Medical Products.The Jackson Laboratorywill test the patient samples for the presence of the virus at its Connecticut CLIA (Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments)-licensedand CAP-accredited laboratory, and the test results will be turned around within 24 hours. 

That Connecticutlaboratory facility had, until recently, focused on complex tumor profiling assays to help cancer patients and their clinicians learn more about specific tumors to try to identify the most appropriate treatment options for patients. When the pandemic hit, the nonprofit was quickly able to adapt its capabilities to now also test patient samples for a specific RNA signature unique to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. 

“Using Puritan medical products and with JAX protocol guidance and testing expertise, we can run this program safely so that our seniors can graduate and move onwith their careers,” saidMMA President WilliamBrennan. 

“We can also take this opportunity to get trained and practice the logistics of testing so that we can incorporate protocols into our operation in the fall as necessary.” 

It was a serendipitous turn of events that brought the partnership about. 

“I reconnected with Timothy Templet at Puritan, with whom I went to high school, and he introduced me to LuAnn Ballesteros, a member of the leadership team at JAX, and the details fell into place,” Brennan said. 

“Now is the time to join together as a community to help one another,” saidEdison Liu, president and CEO of The Jackson Laboratory. “JAX is already collaborating with several Maine regional hospitals to provide testing for frontline health care workers, for patients who are symptomatic for COVID-19 and those whose surgeries had been put on hold. We’re honored to now work with MMA and Puritan toensure that the training of those entrusted with our maritime economy continues.” 


Liz Graves

Liz Graves

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Former Islander reporter and editor Liz Graves grew up in California and came to Maine as a schooner sailor.

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