CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - When concerns arose about limited access to COVID-19 testing, UVA researchers sprung into action. Now, the 24-hour rapid test is saving lives and helping hospitals across the commonwealth get results fast.
The UVA Medical Center currently has the capacity to conduct 100 tests per day in house. It is now also able to send out 50 tests per day to hospitals outside the health system.
The Virginia Health Department announced Wednesday that the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus had reached 391.
“An issue that people have recognized and talked about across the country is availability of testings," UVA Health Public Information Officer Eric Swensen said . "I think anything we can do to really hit those high impact patients again people who are already hospitalized.”
UVA hopes to roll out more than 500 tests a day in the next two weeks.
“As we continue to expand our test capacities to really prioritize that testing, not only for other inpatients other hospitals would also be able to provide that testing where we can to healthcare workers who may have a concern about an exposure, as well as first responders are out there in the community providing care for folks,” Swensen added.
As of Tuesday night, UVA gave several of its test kits to five hospitals in Virginia and one in North Carolina.
“We’ve kind of put out a call for help across, not only the health system, but across UVA," Swensen said. "So many people responded with whatever they could provide to help which is, especially with how this is, just so heartening to see and to hear about.”
The turn-around time for results is less than 24-hours, while other tests tend to take five to nine days. Researchers are hoping to get that down to just two hours for UVA inpatients and 12 hours for patients at outside hospitals.
“It’s a really nice story in the sense that it’s really taking a true team effort across the health system," Swensen stated. "A lot of people have worked very, very hard over the last few weeks to make this test a reality.”
One big looming question is: if you are located in the Charlottesville area and experiencing symptoms of coronavirus, can you get this rapid test?
“The first thing we would always suggest is if you have symptoms that you find concerning or have believe you may have been exposed, call your primary care provider first, and at UVA that’s going to trigger a process where we’ll kind of get you in the process to be screened and reviewed,” said Swensen.
Researchers say this is not only helping those infected get fast results and care. It is also helping those on the front lines conserve their protective gear so they only use it for patients who test positive.
03/25/2020 Release from UVA Health:
CHARLOTTESVILLE, March 25, 2020 – UVA Health is now offering its newly developed COVID-19 testing to hospitals across Virginia.
UVA’s current testing platform enables more than 100 tests per day, and the health system has offered to perform up to 50 tests per day for hospitals across Virginia on behalf of inpatients that meet clinical guidelines for testing. As of Tuesday evening, UVA had provided multiple tests for five additional hospitals in Virginia and one in North Carolina.
Virginia hospitals received additional information Monday through a Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association memo on how to request testing for their inpatients. UVA was the first in Virginia to develop an in-house test. With the support of a philanthropic gift, UVA is working to scale up the numbers of tests and expects over the next two weeks to perform more than 500 tests per day. Limited testing availability has affected the ability of care providers to accurately diagnosis patients and isolate those with the disease. The result has been additional use of valuable personal protective equipment by health providers and increased potential for transmission of COVID-19 while waiting for delayed testing results.
“Our hope is that providing these tests will assist hospitals across the Commonwealth in caring for their patients and responding to this pandemic,” said K. Craig Kent, MD, UVA’s executive vice president for health affairs. “We also hope this will help to save protective personal equipment and other critical resources for Virginia’s public health needs.”
A laboratory team led by Mendy Poulter, PhD, and Amy Mathers, MD – supported by contributions of supplies and equipment from team members across UVA Health and the UVA community – enabled UVA to begin local testing last week. Prior to the development of this in-house test, results would take 5-9 days to return and testing was limited for most hospitals to only a few patients. With the new in-house test, the turnaround time is less than 24 hours, with the goal over the next two weeks that the turnaround time will diminish to 2 hours for UVA inpatients and 12 hours for outside hospitals.
As UVA Health expands its testing capacity they will make tests available for inpatients at Virginia hospitals, hospitals in nearby states as well as clinical providers and first responders who have symptoms.