Director: Virginia state lab can test up to 470 people for COVID-19

Posted at 10:04 PM, Mar 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-15 22:09:51-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Virginia Health Commissioner Dr. Norman Oliver said officials are “very concerned” about the cluster of eight COVID-19 cases on the Peninsula and the likelihood of community spread of the virus.

“There are eight identified cases and upwards of close to 300 contacts that we're doing investigations on from those cases,” Oliver said. “Many tests are pending right now."

“When we identify a case, we do what we call contact investigation,” Oliver said. “And we are looking into hundreds of contacts of these cases to trace down any new cases and to isolate them when we find them. There will be new cases, we know that... And for all those reasons, we're going full court press on trying to identify those cases while ahead of time and isolate them, as we do identify them."

Department of General Services Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services Director Dr. Denise Toney said the state lab could perform tests on 370 to 470 people as of Sunday.

"That is dependent on how many specimens are needed for each patient," Oliver noted.

Those numbers were a sharp contrast to last Sunday when Toney said the state lab has two test kits, meaning 150 to 200 patients could be tested for COVID-19.

"We have more kits on order (from the CDC) and the availability of kits will dictate how many kits we will be able to receive at one time," Toney said last week.

Again this week Toney said she was "hopeful" Virginia would receive additional test kits from the CDC in the week ahead.

However, Oliver said now that private labs offer the testing, "Virginia's ability to provide testing to people in the Commonwealth" as well as across the country, has increased.

Officials noted that the testing conduced by the state lab must be coordinated with the Virginia Department of Health.

“Testing at our facility is only done on those individuals that the health department has investigated and has approved for testing,” Toney said. “There are other individuals within the Commonwealth that are receiving testing and much of that tests must much of that testing is being done at the private sector.”