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Monterey County Public Health Lab starts testing for Coronavirus


SALINAS, Calif. (KION) It's a long anticipated day for microbiologists at Monterey County's Public Health Laboratory.

Thursday, they finally got their hands on a Coronavirus (COVID-19) test kit from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Friday, they were able to put it to use.

Monterey County Public Health Laboratory Director, Donna Ferguson, said they are testing for the Coronavirus on an undisclosed number of people. The samples were sent to the lab by health care providers in Monterey County.

"We haven't had a positive test yet, but I believe it's just a matter of time," said Ferguson.

Ferguson said more testing fights the spread of disease. By identifying those who have the illness, they can help them get the proper treatment.

Testing for the Coronavirus only takes three to four hours now that capabilities have arrived in Monterey County. It used to take two to three days when specimens had to be shipped to the CDC for testing.

"The testing of positive specimens needs to be confirmed at the CDC, but those preliminary results will allow doctors to make decisions about patient care," said Ferguson.

Questions remain about whether any more testing kits will be made available to Monterey County. With the demand for tests soaring across the United States, Ferguson said it is unclear when more will arrive.

The lab received one test kit from the CDC, thus far. The kit includes 500 tests, but only allows for 250 people to be tested. Those who meet CDC criteria for Coronavirus testing must be tested twice: once with an oral sample and another with a nasal sample.

"Larger laborites are concerned about the limited number of tests. We are still hearing from the CDC that there is a back log," said Ferguson..

Ferguson says microbiologists at the lab are working to combat the shortage on a local scale. Next week, they plan to start developing their own test to have approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

"That will enable us to expand testing capability. We don't have to meet CDC requirements for persons under investigation. We can use that test for surveillance to see how widespread the disease is in the community," said Ferguson.

Lab officials do not know how long it will take the FDA to approve their test for the Coronavirus. They are also unsure when the next test kit will arrive from the CDC.

Health / Monterey County / Salinas / Top Stories
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Megan Meier

Megan Meier is a multi-media journalist at KION News Channel 5/46.


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