County lab can now test for coronavirus

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SAN DIEGO — The County of San Diego’s Public Health Laboratory is now able to test for coronavirus, a capability that will significantly decrease the length of time patients must wait to receive results, the Health and Human Services Agency announced Thursday.

Now that the agency has the testing kit, the agency will no longer have to send all specimens to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which took up to several days to receive results. Patients tested locally for potential cases of the virus will know their results between 24 and 48 hours. The CDC will still need to confirm positive tests.

The lab is one of dozens in the country that the CDC has certified to test for the virus.

“This is great news for San Diego County and will help with our ongoing efforts to contain COVID-19,” said Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County public health officer. “Being able to test locally means that when we have patients under investigation, we can more rapidly remove unneeded restrictions from those without infection.  Should someone test positive, we will continue to keep them isolated.”

“The number of specimens we’ve been getting for testing is currently low, but we expect the need to increase,” said Brett Austin, director of HHSA’s Public Health Lab. “We are ready to increase capacity as required.”

The CDC recommends testing patients who show symptoms after returning from China or other areas with community transmission of coronavirus and those who have had contact with a confirmed case. Symptoms include fever, cough and difficulty breathing.

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