Pennsylvania begins coronavirus testing prior to first case

Ioannis Pashakis//March 3, 2020

Pennsylvania begins coronavirus testing prior to first case

Ioannis Pashakis//March 3, 2020

The Pennsylvania Department of Health has begun testing potential samples of coronavirus from its Exton-based laboratory, but has yet to see an active case in the state.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shipped tests to state departments of health across the country this week after two months of testing potential samples of the virus from its own facilities.

With the update in the CDC’s guidelines, Pennsylvania’s Department of Health has been able to test any potential samples of the virus that state health care organizations send its way — a change that Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said could speed up wait times for testing from two to three days to less than one day.

“This is a very important step for us as we continue to provide timely updates to Pennsylvanians,” Levine said during a press conference on Tuesday. “If we get a specimen in the morning, we can have (a result) later in the afternoon.”

The CDC announced on Wednesday that coronavirus has grown to over 94,000 cases worldwide, with more than 3,200 deaths documented. The most recent numbers in the U.S. are currently at 128 cases with nine deaths.

While Pennsylvania has yet to see its first case of the virus, the state is already testing samples sent to it from health care providers and can currently test 25 samples per day, said Levine.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has announced that it will soon open up testing to commercial laboratories.

Dr. Graham Snyder, medical director of infection prevention and hospital epidemiology at UPMC in Pittsburgh, said during a press conference on Tuesday that the hospital system is already preparing to perform testing.

“We are working quickly to develop our own testing capabilities so that any cases can be identified more rapidly,” Snyder said. “As an organization, we’ve had system-wide communication, whether staff are in a rural hospital or in Pittsburgh.”

Some manufacturers of medical devices based in China have seen disruptions in their production lines because of the coronavirus outbreak, but Tami Minnier, Chief Quality Officer at UPMC, said that the system has yet to feel any pressures in their supply chain partnerships.

“We are not sitting back and waiting for any of those pressures to come to us,” Minnier said. “We are proactively working with those suppliers and vendors.”