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UPMC begins COVID-19 testing, plans to expand to Harrisburg

UPMC began testing patients for COVID-19 this week at a private specimen collection site in Pittsburgh and plans to open a similar site in Harrisburg at a later date.

Early tests for coronavirus in Pennsylvania were sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, before the state Department of Health began offering its own tests at its Exton laboratory.

Pennsylvania using commercial labs across the state as the primary testing option, with Pittsburgh-based UPMC among the first to develop their own.

The health care system recently announced that it finished developing its own test for coronavirus, or COVID-19, that UPMC said should allow it to test hundreds of patients per week in the near future.

“Developing this test for a never-before-seen virus in the midst of a pandemic was a tremendous challenge, even for our academic medical center with its long history of such developments,” said Dr. Alan Wells, medical director of the UPMC Clinical Laboratories and Thomas Gill III Professor of Pathology at the University of Pittsbugh School of Medicine.

UPMC began testing at its Pittsburgh site on Tuesday and said it will be looking at having additional specimen collection facilities in Harrisburg, Erie, Williamsport and Altoona.

At the sites, UPMC providers collect specimens while wearing personal protective equipment in special negative pressure rooms that keep air in a room until it flows through a high-efficiency particulate air filter to remove pathogens.

Tests for COVID-19 include the use of a swab that is inserted through a patient’s nose and into their nasal cavity. Tests are transported to its laboratories, where a result is returned within 24 hours.

Ioannis Pashakis
Ioannis Pashakis covers health care, the gig economy, cannabis and technology. Email him at ipashakis@bridgetowermedia.com.

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