UW Virology head details struggle to ramp up coronavirus testing

Mar 18, 2020, 1:01 PM
Coronavirus testing, covid deaths...
Drive-thru coronavirus testing at UW Medicine. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

The need for expanded coronavirus testing has been emphasized by medical professionals for months, and yet still, struggles have persisted both in Washington and the rest of the U.S.

UW virology expert: Avoiding coronavirus a question of probability

Dr. Keith Jerome, the head of UW Medicine’s Department of Virology, detailed that whereas before, tests were coming back in 8 to 12 hours, backups at labs have had some results taking almost an entire day.

“We’re working through them as best we can, but that’s the reality that we’re going to deal with over the next couple weeks,” he told Dave Ross on Seattle’s Morning News. “What we’re seeing is it’s very difficult to ramp all this up as fast as anybody would like.”

Labs have been slowed by a number of factors, including transporting samples, double-checking procedures and results, and other logistical problems.

“All these things take time, and it’s so difficult,” said Dr. Jerome.

For now, labs like the one at UW Medicine are prioritizing tests for those with severe symptoms in need of immediate medical attention, as well as first responders, doctors, nurses, and other emergency department staff.

Ross: How our brains are really responding to coronavirus

On a wider scale, Dr. Jerome cites the need for more guidance at the federal level, with many states and other local governments largely being forced to act on their own.

“I think some guidance from the federal level that’s more concrete would be really helpful for states,” he noted. “You’re seeing a typical American response that every state does have slightly different nuance of what they’re doing. [But] this is something that is affecting every part of United States.”

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UW Virology head details struggle to ramp up coronavirus testing