How prepared is Texas to test patients for COVID-19?

Coronavirus

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The one and only laboratory in Texas currently testing for COVID-19, the disease caused by the Coronavirus, is in Lubbock at Texas Tech University. The Texas Department of State Health Services said the lab has only tested one or two cases, which have come back negative.

Chris Van Deusen, the Director of Media Relations with the DSHS told KXAN Monday the remaining nine public health labs in the state should be online later this week or next. Each one, which have already received testing kits, is going through a validation process to ensure their work is at the same level and accuracy happening at the Centers for Disease Control.

Van Deusen said the Federal Drug Administration has also taken some action to allow private labs, including hospitals, to start testing as well, which would drastically expand the testing capabilities in Texas.

Why is it important to have labs in Texas that can test for the virus?

DSHS Commissioner Dr. John Hellerstedt says the more labs testing for the virus, equals faster results.

“That will be a great advance because having that testing, that specific testing available for COVID-19 will really aid on our ability to really contain the virus,” said Dr. Hellerstedt.

Prior to the Lubbock lab coming online, samples like swab tests and blood tests were being shipped overnight to the CDC headquarters in Atlanta for testing. Van Deusen said it was a couple day turnaround for results.

Hellerstedt, was on hand at the Governor’s mansion Monday morning to answer a few questions about the current situation for COVID-19 testing in the state.

The following is a short Q & A with Dr. Hellerstedt:

Q: How many people have been tested for the Coronavirus in Texas?

A: I can’t give you a solid number on exactly how many people have had the testing. I think the good news is that more laboratories will be capable of doing the testing. My understanding is the laboratory in Lubbock, which is part of the Laboratory Response Network, is now able to perform the testing. We hope that very soon we can bring the testing online here in Austin. That will be a great advance because having that testing, that specific testing available for COVID-19, will really aid in our ability to really contain the virus.

Q: Who will be able to perform the testing?

A: Generally, the idea would be a physician’s office would not qualify to receive the test kits at this point. The FDA is using a special kind of approval process. At first they really want to have very sophisticated laboratories that can do high complexity types of testing be the ones that might qualify for the initial testing.

Q: Are we going to get the test kits in Texas?

A: Yes, we have the test kits in Texas. What we have to do and we’ve been doing is any laboratory that gets them that’s part of CDC’s laboratory response network has to go through a validation process. To the point of reliability, we want to make sure when other labs are able to do this, they do it at the same high level of specificity and sensitivity and accuracy that is done at CDC.

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