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CDC allows Virginia to begin testing for Coronavirus

With the Coronavirus pandemic growing by the day, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now allowing state labs to test for suspected cases. Local testing can cut the time for results from days to hours.
Posted at 11:39 PM, Mar 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-03 16:53:00-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- With the Coronavirus pandemic growing by the day, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now allowing state labs to test for suspected cases. Local testing can cut the time for results from days to hours.

In Virginia, The Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services (DCLS), the Commonwealth’s health and environmental laboratory, has begun testing for the virus. The laboratory tested two suspected cases over the weekend, and the results were both negative.

Addressing city leaders Monday night, Dr. Danny Avula, the director of the Richmond and Henrico health departments, explained that the CDC is also expanding the criteria for who can be tested for the novel virus.

“Up until just a few days ago, the criteria was really if you had a travel history to one of the affected countries or you had known exposure to someone with the illness,” Avula says. “The CDC has added a third criteria which basically says if you have severe acute respiratory disease and you’ve ruled out all other potential causes of that respiratory illness, you may qualify for testing.”

Avula expects the number of local hospitals asking to test patients will increase significantly, thus exposing more cases.

“While the immediate threat to health is still considered low on the ground in the United States because we’re not yet seeing sustained transmission from person to person in communities, it is still a significant threat and we should be doing everything we can to prepare for it,” Avula says.

So far, eight people total have been tested for the Coronavirus in Virginia and state health officials have monitored 279 travelers, with 126 of those cases still active.

There have been no confirmed cases to date in the commonwealth.

Health departments are now working closely with hospitals, local governments, businesses and school leaders, trying to form a regional response in the event of a pandemic in the commonwealth.