NYC is opening its own coronavirus testing lab

After months of complaints about test delays, New York City officials announced on Thursday that they had opened a lab in Manhattan, which should cut waiting times significantly as the city remodels for its most ambitious period Does, with public school classes and indoor meals scheduled to begin this month.

Instead of relying on large lab companies – which are burning with demand across the country as the virus continues to spread, leading to a backlog – the new facility will give priority to New York City residents, meaning within 24-48 hours Officials on time, stated.

Within a few weeks city residents are expected to be able to process more tests than any other lab, a rare bright spot for New Yorkers who have been testing coronovirus since March I have experienced many crises in trying.

City Hall consultant Dr. J. “It will give us more capacity in terms of sheer numbers, which is playing a leading role in the city’s coronovirus response,” said Varma. “It will also give us control because it is a laboratory that is truly dedicated to New York City.”

New York City has one of the nation’s most ambitious coronovirus testing programs, swallowing more than 200,000 people a week, more than 2 percent of all city residents. The new lab, which began testing this week, should eventually help expand on that.

The lab, on the 12th floor of a building at First Avenue and East 29th Street, is run by Opentron, a small robotics firm. City officials said New York City played a key role in building the lab. For now, the city and its public hospital system are Lab’s sole customers.

First, the new lab, which is being called the Epidemic Response Laboratory, will conduct only a few thousand tests a day, mainly from samples collected at test sites operated by the city’s public hospital system, at City Hall and Opentron’s The officials said.

But the expectation is that the lab will eventually be able to test over 40,000 samples a day, including some from public school students and teachers, on a need basis.

As of Wednesday morning, the lab had returned results on 712 samples previously sent, and is currently capable of handling about 3,000 samples a day, a number that is expected to increase dramatically over the next week, one of the lab The spokesman said. .

Public health officials hope that after the test – the arrival of coronoviruses in New York City for the first time – there will be no scarce resources now.

The new lab is the latest chapter to fix a series of long-running efforts in the city, which include testing efforts. The problems go back to February and March, when a series of wrong decisions and disastrous decisions by the federal government meant that some people were eligible for a test – even when they demonstrated obvious Kovid-19 symptoms – As the virus started circulating in New York City. Its suburbs.

First, the federal government had a monopoly on testing, and the city scrambled to develop the ability to test on its own. Initially, a shortage of test kits, chemical reagents and even swabs were used to collect samples.

In the months that followed, the largest national laboratories dramatically increased their testing capacity, and New York City began to rely on them to handle the most localized testing. But some of these laboratories, such as Quest Diagnostics, exacerbated the heat outbreak that has spread elsewhere in the country this summer.

That contributed to waiting as long as 2 to 3 weeks for the test results in New York. For public health officials, it was clear that New York City needed more testing infrastructure that could control it – or at least rely on it.

We are approaching the scale of testing capacity that we think is important, ”Dr. Varma said.

The extra capacity may come in handy amidst the ensuing push for students and teachers as in-class instruction resumes for hundreds-of-thousands in the public school system. And as the flu season begins and the cold spreads in greater numbers, the demand for testing may increase as New Yorkers grapple with symptoms that may or may not mean Kovid-19.

“We knew we really needed our testing capability to be maximized in the fall,” Dr. Varma said.

Opentrone, the robotics company that will run the lab, specializes in automating research labs. Jonathan Brennan-Badal, the company’s chief executive, said the three robotic arms would move the trays, each with about 380 samples between different testing stations.

The laboratory hopes to introduce pooling samples, a method where multiple samples are grouped together and tested as one.

James Petchett, president of the city’s Economic Development Corporation, hoped that with pooling the lab would eventually be able to test 40,000 to 60,000 samples a day.

The push for the lab at the height of the outbreak goes back to early April, when City Hall realized it faced significant supply shortages.

Month after month, the city’s testing program remained a weak link in its ability to respond to coronaviruses.

The city itself has the ability to limit the testing process. The Department of Health had its own public health laboratory, as well as rapid testing equipment at various sexual health clinics and public hospitals in the city. All told, the city can process about 10,000 tests a day on its own, said the director of the mayor’s office, Jeff Thammiktissim.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has spoken of the city’s ambition to test 50,000 New Yorkers per day by the end of summer.

For months now, City Hall and the city’s Economic Development Agency have been talking with lab companies and start-up firms, building more lab capacity dedicated to testing for New York City.

The new lab will rely on a procedure developed by genetic researchers at NYU Langone Medical Center, Mr. Brennan-Badal, the chief executive officer of Opentron. In addition to allowing for high volume testing, the process consumes relatively little reagents and other supplies that are rare at various points in the epidemic.

The city will pay OpenCentron $ 28 for each test, which Mr. Brennan-Badal said was less than a third of what some other laboratories were charging.

The mayor’s conductor, Mr. Thammiktikasam, said the plan was for the lab to eventually test samples for influenza.