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UW Virology ‘far under capacity’ with coronavirus testing

Mar 23, 2020, 9:10 AM
coronavirus testing, swabs...
Coronavirus testing continues to ramp up. (Greater Seattle Coronavirus Assessment Network)
(Greater Seattle Coronavirus Assessment Network)

As concerns over a lack of coronavirus testing volume in the U.S. continue, experts at the University of Washington have provided some insight into what could be slowing down the process.

Bill Gates estimates at least 6-10 weeks before coronavirus is quelled

UW Virology’s lab has the capacity to test thousands of samples, running as many as over 3,000 tests in a single 24-hour period recently. And yet still, there continues to be a shortage of screening both in Washington and nationwide.

UW Virology provided some context for that on Sunday, pointing that not only is there no backlog of tests at its lab, it is currently operating “far under capacity.” That being so, it blames the shortage of screenings on not having enough samples to test, rather than a lack of capacity to run the tests themselves.

“Hoping we have more to test (Monday),” UW Virology said on Twitter.

Currently, tests are still being prioritized for individuals showing severe symptoms, as well as police officers, firefighters, and first responders on the frontlines. Testing for those with mild symptoms, though, has still been hard to come by, something that would be integral to preventing the continued spread of the virus.

Graphs: Coronavirus cases across the US and Worldwide

A vastly expanded testing program for those with mild or no symptoms is something that some experts have dubbed as a necessity to ensuring that coronavirus doesn’t continue to recur after cases start to subside, as well as curbing its current spread.

UW Medicine’s drive-through testing station opened last week in Northgate in a bid to speed up the sample-collecting process, but even that’s limited to patients referred directly by a UW doctor, and capable of accommodating just 50 patients a day.

Nationwide, Washington has run over 27,000 coronavirus tests as of March 22, the second most of any state in the U.S., trailing New York’s over 61,000 tests. California trails in a distant third at just under 13,000 tests, followed by over 9,700 tests in Florida.

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UW Virology ‘far under capacity’ with coronavirus testing