NYC opens own coronavirus testing lab

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Public health officials hope testing is no longer – for the first time since the coronavirus arrived in New York City – a scarce resource.

The new lab is the latest chapter in the city’s long-standing efforts to address a series of issues plaguing testing efforts. The problems date back to February and March, when a series of missteps and disastrous decisions by the federal government meant few people qualified for a test – even when they had clear symptoms of Covid-19 – while the virus was starting to circulate through New York and its suburbs.

At first, the federal government had a monopoly on testing, and the city strove to develop the capacity to test itself. At first, the effort was hampered by a lack of test kits, chemical reagents, and even swabs used to take samples.

In the months that followed, the largest national laboratories dramatically increased their testing capacity and New York City began to rely on them to handle most of the local testing. But some of those labs, like Quest Diagnostics, have been overwhelmed this summer amid worsening outbreaks elsewhere in the country.

This has contributed to wait times of up to 2 to 3 weeks for test results in New York. For public health officials, it was clear that New York City needed more testing infrastructure than it could control – or at least rely on.

« We are going to enter the scale of testing capacity that we believe is essential, ”said Dr Varma.

The extra capacity could come in handy amid the next push for students and teachers to get tested as classroom instruction resumes for hundreds of thousands in the public school system. And as the flu season begins and the common cold has started to circulate in greater numbers, the demand for testing may increase, as New Yorkers face symptoms that may or may not mean Covid-19.

“We knew we really needed our testing capacity to be at peak fall,” Dr Varma said.

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