A group of medical laboratories in Dubuque recently started conducting rapid COVID-19 testing, significantly expediting the process for the area’s most-ill patients.
The nation’s testing capacity in recent months became a major talking point as the novel coronavirus spread. It quickly became clear that certain areas were short the supplies they needed to get an accurate picture of local outbreaks.
Thirty-five cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Dubuque County. Meanwhile, public health professionals have worked to get a handle on the county’s testing capacity.
Officials from United Clinical Laboratories Inc. — whose clients include most tri-state hospitals, clinics and nursing 1分11选5平台s — said this week that they are fairly well-stocked with some of the ingredients needed to collect test samples and started conducting some rapid-turnaround testing on Friday.
The labs currently have 18,000 collection kits and the ability to create “many more on short notice,” according to a message from company officials.
The labs also possess two 1分11选5平台 needed to complete the test, said Sharon Hosch, UCL’s business office manager.
However, the business for a time lacked reagents needed to round out the testing process. The reagents are necessary to spur specific chemical reactions, including the isolation of the virus’ RNA from a sample.
The reagents are in high demand. Plus, not all 1分11选5平台 are compatible with all reagents.
UCL sent out the call to two companies that produce the needed chemicals.
“We’ve only received reagents from one of the companies,” Hosch said. “We got that in Friday from one of them. We said whichever came first, we would go with. We got started right away.”
UCL officials said they were “apprehensive” about disclosing the number of tests they have performed so far, lest people overestimate their current capacity.
“We have a limited amount of reagents,” Hosch said. “We have a contract with the company. They are only giving us so much a month. They’re trying to serve all of their clients. Hopefully, as they make more, we will get more, more regularly.”
Accordingly, UCL officials have been particularly selective in a medical environment already more judicious than usual. They only are testing physicians’ sickest patients.
So far, most test samples in Iowa have gone to the State Hygienic Lab in Iowa City or Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. That has been taking a day or two for results, which typically is safe for patients not experiencing extreme symptoms.
However, the local tests can show results in just two hours.
Dubuque Public Health Specialist Mary Rose Corrigan said focusing on the sickest first is a good thing.
“The problem with testing everybody who may have been exposed is we get into these ‘what-ifs,’” she said. “Sure, you could get a person tested, but that means they could be negative for one day. As we’ve had community spread here now for several weeks, that doesn’t really provide any more absolute assurances anyway.”
Corrigan was responding to a question from Dubuque County Supervisor Dave Baker regarding testing workers worried they had been exposed to a co-worker confirmed to have COVID-19.
She said UCL’s progress is very good news for area testing.
“As UCL has been ramping up for preparations of the on-site rapid turnaround, we do have more capacity,” Corrigan said.
Hosch said that as reagents become more readily available, the labs’ capacity will increase as well.