San Luis Obispo County is trying to be among the first in the U.S. to have rapid coronavirus testing capabilities, Public Health Officer Penny Borenstein announced at a Sunday news conference.
On Saturday, the Food and Drug Administration granted “emergency use” the first rapid point-of-care COVID-19 test, that can deliver results in less than an hour.
The test is manufactured by Cepheid — a company the county already has a contract with for other services.
“That puts us in a good position to try to get that point-of-care test available sooner rather than later,” Borenstein said.
The timeframe of the tests coming to San Luis Obispo remains unclear, but the county has expressed interest to Cepheid.
Test results are turned around in approximately 45 minutes and delivered to a patient while they wait, Borenstein said.
“An accurate test delivered close to the patient can be transformative — and help alleviate the pressure that the emergence of the 2019-nCoV outbreak has put on health-care facilities that need to properly allocate their respiratory isolation resources,” Cepheid Chief Medical and Technology Officer said in a statement.
The rapid COVID-19 test can be run on Cephield’s GeneXpert system that is already available in many labs across the country.
Cepheid said the test kits will be available for use by the end of the month.
In addition, County Public Health is also trying to acquire a high throughput machine to run COVID-19 tests. Borenstein said the goal is to operate the machine from a local community hospital.
“There are a number of things moving on the testing front and we are well poised to jump on all opportunities that stand before us,” Borenstein said.
County Public Health continues to have sufficient supplies to test 50 residents per day. In addition, several local outpatient providers are sending tests to commercial labs — most notably WestPac Labs on the Central Coast.
The county lab has invited retirees back to help with testing, but “there just aren’t a lot of public health microbiologists,” Borenstein said.
The county lab has performed more than 250 tests, and WestPac Lab, a private lab on the Central Coast, has performed 282 tests, Borenstein reported on March 20.