Labs throughout WI could significantly increase COVID-19 testing – if they could get the needed chemicals

By Guy Boulton
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
April 7, 2020

UW Health has an automated instrument capable of processing about 1,200 COVID-19 tests a day, or roughly four times the number that its lab now typically does.

The instrument has yet to be used for a single COVID-19 test.

UW Health’s lab, like others throughout the state, has been unable to get the chemicals, or reagents, needed to process specimens on the instrument…

…Companies also are developing tests that don’t need to be sent to a lab. Abbot Laboratories received approval last week for a new test that can deliver results from a portable instrument in five to 13 minutes.

 How quickly the new tests will be available is unknown. But public health officials agree on the need to do more widespread testing.

The testing that has been done so far is not representative of the community, said Lorraine Halinka Malcoe, an epidemiologist and professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

The state doesn’t know how many people are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms or have had the disease and now are immune.

“We don’t know the level of that at all,” Halinka Malcoe said.

Better information also will be needed to know when it is safe — or at least safer — for life to return to normal.

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