At the time of publication, more than 100 Long Island residents have been infected with the novel coronavirus or COVID-19. Although telling county residents to remain calm, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran declared a state of emergency for the county that was put into place this past Friday.
To help with faster testing for the virus, Northwell Health Labs in New Hyde Park is testing for the coronavirus after receiving state and federal authorization to begin manual testing. To prepare its lab to begin COVID-19 testing, Northwell has invested more than $2 million in recent weeks for lab supplies and equipment, part of an overall outlay of more than $5 million the health system has spent over the past seven weeks on coronavirus preparation.
“Utilizing a testing process developed and approved by the New York State Department of Health (DOH), Northwell’s Lab expects to manually test 90 potential coronavirus samples within the first full day,” Dr. Dwayne Breining, executive director of the Northwell Labs said. “With one of North America’s largest automated testing lines, the facility processes about 20 million tests annually. Beyond the manual testing authorized, Northwell Labs is seeking the U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s approval to use semi-automated testing within the next week. This would give the laboratory the capability to process hundreds of tests daily, with a plan to ramp up to thousands daily in the near future.”
While the expanded ability to test patients for coronavirus will enhance Northwell’s ability to manage patients with potential infection, testing will continue to be reserved for those at risk for severe disease and who have had confirmed close contact with an infected individual.
“Only people who meet that criteria will be tested and that testing is currently being performed at hospital emergency departments and urgent care centers,” Dr. John D’Angelo, chair of emergency medicine at Northwell, said. “Even as our testing capacity increases, we will continue to screen people judiciously so we can focus our attention on those most at risk for severe coronavirus infection, who require more immediate and intensive medical attention. All others who are concerned about exposure but who have mild or no symptoms should recuperate at home.”
NYU Winthrop Hospital has already had patients test positive for the coronavirus and are taking all necessary precautions when it comes to its staff and patients.
“Any patient testing positive for COVID-19 is treated in isolation and under airborne and contact precautions,” a hospital spokesperson said. “Any medical staff entering an isolation room is trained on [the] proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE), which includes gowns, gloves, masks, and eye protection. We follow all CDC guidelines and standard infection control guidelines. Any staff that might be involved in COVID-19 patient care would be monitored as a precautionary meausre, in keeping with CDC and NYU Langone protocols.”