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Mass. Public Health Lab Can Now Test For New Coronavirus, Speeding Results

Clinical Care Technician John Martin pulls on gloves at protective equipment training session at Tufts Medical Center. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Clinical Care Technician John Martin pulls on gloves at protective equipment training session at Tufts Medical Center. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Massachusetts can now begin testing local patients for the new coronavirus instead of sending specimens off to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, officials said Friday.

The State Public Health Laboratory says it now has federal approval to test patients suspected of having COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus. Local testing will mean faster answers for doctors who think a patient may have the virus.

The turnaround time for test results is expected to be 24 hours, instead of up to a week with the CDC. Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel says the local testing "is good news for Massachusetts, as testing at the State Public Health Laboratory will speed up obtaining test results for Persons Under Investigation and expedite ongoing testing of any confirmed case in recovery."

The Department of Public Health says it has enough kits to begin testing, and health care staffers will need to contact the department to get a patient tested.

The CDC says it will still need to confirm any test that comes up positive.

The Department of Public Health says it will release data on COVID-19 monitoring every week, beginning next Wednesday. Thus far, there has been only one confirmed case in Massachusetts, a student who is reported to be recovering.

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Carey Goldberg Twitter Editor, CommonHealth
Carey Goldberg is the editor of WBUR's CommonHealth section.

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