coronavirus testing

Testing…Testing: State and Local Governments Still Waiting on Coronavirus Test Kits

New York state has tested the most residents; California ranks third. Local biotech companies team up with UC San Diego to quickly produce more test kits

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State and local governments around the country continue to wait for thousands of coronavirus test kits needed to keep track of the pandemic.

And the vast majority of people who have been tested — just under 90% — did not have the virus, according to data collected by the COVID Tracking Project, an online group that collects national and international testing results.

That data reveals that more than 111,000 people have been tested for the virus in the 50 states and Washington D.C. Of those, 12,377 tested positive. The numbers do not show whether other factors, such as incomplete or defective test kits,  contributed to the relatively low number of positive test results. 

The data also reveals that the testing effort varies widely among states and localities. 

New York state has tested the largest number of residents: 22,284. The state also had the biggest percentage of positive test results, with 4,152 residents, or 18.6%, confirmed as having the virus. Washington state administered the second most tests: 20,712. Of those tests, 1,376 or 6.6%, yielded a positive result for the coronavirus.

California, the nation’s most populous state, administered the third biggest number of tests: 9,845. Of those, 1,058 returned a positive result.

In terms of tests done in San Diego County, health officials have not released the total number of tests given, only those that have been read. To date, the county has read 1,049 tests and 105 of those were positive for the disease. County officials say a number of tests have not been read and are currently pending. They will not say how many.

Meanwhile, five local labs have partnered with UC San Diego to manufacture more coronavirus test kits.

This collaborative effort could produce up to 1,500 tests per day, within two to three weeks, said Patty Maysent, CEO of UC San Diego Health. 

Maysent said a “shortage of required chemicals and materials has limited testing to only persons meeting strict diagnostic criteria, such as clear symptoms of the disease or known exposure to the virus.”

She expressed confidence that this new public/private partnership will help overcome those shortages, by giving researchers access to more testing platforms that can use different materials and supply chains.

The local diagnostic manufacturers working with UC San Diego are Thermo Fisher Scientific, Roche Diagnostics, GenMark Diagnostics, Luminex Corp and Abbott Diagnostics.

“The number of tests requested today is beyond anything we have ever imagined,” said Maurice Exner, vice-president of Hologic Diagnostic Solutions, a test kit manufacturer.

“Everyone’s got to step up and do their part,” said Cary Gunn, founder and CEO of Genalyte. “Every day we delay and we’re in this exponential growth phase, it’s going to get phenomenally worse.”

Genalyte needs more test samples to verify its tests work and get FDA approval. They’re asking for members of the public with symptoms to get tested. Those interested in getting tested can contact his company to email fightcovid@genalyte.com.

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