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The challenges of coronavirus testing in Erie County

Demand for the test is exceeding the supply of test kits
Posted at 6:44 PM, Mar 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-17 19:40:16-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW-TV) — The number of cases testing positive for coronavirus is growing in Erie County. That increase is also causing concerns for many people who are sick as they wonder if they too have COVID-19.

7 Eyewitness News has heard from viewers who are frustrated that they were not eligible for testing even though they had a cough and fever.

Dr. Thomas Schenk, Medical Director for BlueCross BlueShield of WNY, said the problem is Erie County only has a limited number of coronavirus test kits. Those need to be used in situations where the symptoms seem highly possible that it is a case of coronavirus.

"So right now, testing is limited and there is specific criteria of who can be tested. You have to work through a doctor in order to get a test," explained Dr. Schenk.

BlueCross BlueShield of WNY is covering the cost of getting a coronavirus test without expense to its members, said Dr. Schenk.

During an afternoon press conference with Erie County officials, County Executive Mark Poloncarz said he has spoken with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo about getting more test kits. Poloncarz explained the county still has test kits remaining but those need to be used by appointment-only through the Erie County Health Department.

The warning signs to watch for are serious cough, fever, and shortness of breath.

Dr. Schenk said the big national labs (like Quest) are gearing up to do more testing in the near future - in hopes testing will outpace the spread of the virus.

"I think by the end of this week, I've been told, that the country will have the capacity to test a couple-hundred-thousand tests a week," added Dr. Schenk.

Click here for more information about coronavirus covid-19 from the Erie County Department of Health.