BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — As numbers of confirmed coronavirus cases across the United States rise, the number of people being tested do, as well. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's message is simple: testing needs to increase and it needs to be increased now.
On Thursday afternoon, New York State health officials said more than 2,300 New Yorkers have been tested for the virus statewide. About 14% or more than 320 of them have tested positive for COVID-19. Out of that number of New Yorkers with the virus, 14% of them are hospitalized.
"That is not representative of the percentage of the population that has coronavirus because we don't have the testing capacity to actually determine that," Governor Cuomo said. He later continued, "The testing is about what percent of those infected are hospitalized to determine the capacity we need in our hospital system."
But testing capabilities could soon drastically increase. The state has authorized 28 labs within New York to test for COVID19. Pending FDA approval, Governor Cuomo said an automatic testing contract between the state and a national lab could allow 5,000 tests performed a day.
"We don't have a confirmed case," Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said. He continued, "We are going under the assumption that there are people in our community who have it."
Erie County health lab is currently running tests, but Erie County Health Commissioner, Dr. Gale Burstein, said Roswell Park, Erie County Medical Center and Kaleida Health are expected to begin testing next week.
The county health lab is running a little more than 20 tests a day. A single test takes about 5-6 hours to run. If a sample is taken before 11 a.m., the results are expected the same evening. Any sample taken after 11 a.m., will be tested the next day. If needed, Dr. Burstein said the lab can run up to 120 tests a day, but right now, there are only 450 test kits. County officials hope more kits will be on the way soon.
"If the demand increases, we'll be doing more than one run a day and we're going to try to accommodate the communities needs," Dr. Burstein said.
Testing at Roswell Park is expected to start this next week with 40 tests a day initially. The lab's capacity will increase after the "phase-in period" to 100 or more a day.
In total, 19 Erie County residents have been tested for COVID-19 across all New York labs meaning the CDC, Wadsworth lab in Albany and the Erie County health lab. All have come back negative.
As of Thursday afternoon, upwards of 29 Erie County residents were tested and 19 came back negative. The remaining test results were not known Thursday night. Local testing is also being done for a handful of non-county residents including the Monroe County man who tested positive for coronavirus Wednesday night.