- Title: New York lab starts semi-automated COVID-19 testing
- Date: 11th March 2020
- Summary: LAKE SUCCESS, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES (MARCH 11, 2020) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF LAB TECHNICIAN WORKING ON TEST SAMPLES AND PUTTING CARTRIDGE INTO MACHINE NORTHWELL HEALTH LABS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, DWAYNE BREINING, TALKING TO REPORTERS (SOUNDBITE) (English) NORTHWELL HEALTH LABS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, DWAYNE BREINING, SAYING: "To be able to do a complex test like that, where every step is manual, and ensure the accurate results, it's labor intensive. And I can't have those guys working 24/7 continuously. With the cartridge-based semi-automated test and the fully-automated test, essentially, we just have to train people to load the samples and read the results, run the quality control, and they can go." NEWS CONFERENCE IN PROGRESS (SOUNDBITE) (English) NORTHWELL HEALTH LABS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, DWAYNE BREINING, SAYING: "With the CDC-based assay, which is the manual assay, we can do dozens of tests a day. And I think we ramp that up to where we could do about 60 tests a day. And that's kind of the ceiling that we had because you have to have specialized techs handling every single thing. With the cartridge based systems, we can do hundreds of tests a day eventually. It still requires each individual patient's sample to be loaded on a cartridge, but obviously once they're loaded, the tech can go back and start loading other ones so it can go faster. We can also train more techs faster to do that type of testing. And right now, the limitation on ramping that up - we hope to get up to a few hundred cases a day over the next several days or a week or so - it's only limited by the supply." NEWS CONFERENCE IN PROGRESS (SOUNDBITE) (English) NORTHWELL HEALTH LABS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, DWAYNE BREINING, SAYING: "Until we reach the point where there's enough testing that anybody who has flu-like symptoms coming in could get tested for this virus, just like we test for flu and RSV and rhinovirus and all the other viruses, we are not going to be satisfied that we have enough testing capacity. So we're gonna keep going until we reach that point." VARIOUS OF TECH WORKING IN LAB (SOUNDBITE) (English) NORTHWELL HEALTH LABS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, DWAYNE BREINING, SAYING: "At different times of a viral illness, people shed different amounts of virus. So depending on the timing of the sample or anything like that - and it's different for every virus, and it might be different for every patient too - so you're never really 100% sure that you're shedding virus at the time that the samples taken. For the most part, if you're sick and you have symptoms and we get a swab from you, we'll detect the disease. And that's a high likelihood, actually, that's 90% or better. But that variability in the test presentation can affect the results, obviously. If the virus is not in the test tube that we get, we're not going to detect it. VARIOUS OF TECH WORKING IN LAB
- Keywords: COVID-19 capacity coronavirus federal approval samples semi-automatic testing testing lab
- Reuters ID: LVA001C4M06RR
- Location: LAKE SUCCESS, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES
- City: LAKE SUCCESS, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES
- Country: USA
- Duration: 00:04:06
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Topics: Health/Medicine
- Story Text: A New York healthcare system on Wednesday (March 11) announced the start of semi-automated COVID-19 testing at its lab outside of New York City.
Northwell Health received federal approval late last week to move from manual testing to semi-automated testing, increasing the number of samples technicians can process per day from 90 to hundreds.
"To be able to do a complex test like that, where every step is manual, and ensure the accurate results, it's labor intensive. And I can't have those guys working 24/7 continuously. With the cartridge-based semi-automated test and the fully-automated test, essentially, we just have to train people to load the samples and read the results, run the quality control, and they can go," said lab executive director Dwayne Breining.
New York and Washington, the U.S. states hit the hardest by the coronavirus outbreak, are struggling to make testing for the virus widely available, with local officials estimating it could take weeks more to reach peak testing capacity.
An unidentified flaw in test kits distributed by the federal government in February, which gave some false results, has set the country back in containing an outbreak that has infected more than 121,000 people worldwide.
Boosting testing is crucial, disease experts say, to assessing the scope of the U.S. outbreak and identifying where it is spreading most rapidly.
Vice President Mike Pence said on March 4 that roughly 1.5 million tests would be available by the end of that week, while President Donald Trump told reporters on Friday that "anyone who wants a test, gets a test".
But more than a week later, the ramp up has been much slower due to regulatory hurdles at the federal and state level, as well as logistical and technical challenges, according to healthcare providers, public health officials and test makers.
New York has 212 confirmed coronavirus cases, according to Governor Andrew Cuomo.
U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told CNN on Tuesday that current testing capacity was roughly 10,000 tests per day nationwide. Azar also said the federal government has lost the ability to keep exact count of tests as local and commercial labs play a larger role in testing.
The introduction of tests by Laboratory Corporation of America Holdings and Quest Diagnostics Inc, two of the nation's largest diagnostic companies, is expected to greatly expand capacity beginning this week.
Quest said that it anticipated performing several thousands tests by the end of the week. LabCorp also said it can now conduct several thousands tests daily. Another major lab test provider, BioReference Laboratories, a subsidiary of OPKO Health Inc (OPK.O), told Reuters that it expected to be able to conduct as many as 2,000 tests per day nationwide by the week's end.
"Our door is open for any developers who want to have a test for use in the U.S.," the Food and Drug Administration said in an emailed statement. The agency said it had received dozens of requests from parties interested in developing their own tests.
(Production: Soren Larson)
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