Faulty Kits Cause Delays in Local Coronavirus Testing

An illustration of the 2019 novel coronavirus, sometimes expressed as 2019-nCoV. (Courtesy of CDC)

Update, Wednesday, Feb. 12: The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced at a news conference today that preliminary trials of the COVID-19 diagnostic testing kits it sent to some states produced inconclusive results.

The California Department of Public Health had previously stated that diagnostic testing for COVID-19 at California labs could begin as early as Wednesday, Feb. 12. The agency will delay that testing until the state receives new materials from the CDC.

In an email to KQED Science, CDPH representatives said:

“The California Department of Public Health has been informed that after consultation and agreement with the FDA, the CDC is manufacturing a replacement component of the test kit to better ensure quality control. The California Department of Public Health remains poised to start testing for 2019 novel coronavirus upon receiving those materials.”

Original Post, Tuesday, Feb. 11: State health officials say labs throughout California will soon begin testing for the 2019 novel coronavirus the World Health Organization recently named COVID-19. So far, seven people in California have been diagnosed with the flu-like disease.

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The California Department of Public Health announced that 16 labs are receiving the testing kits developed by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Until now, hospitals throughout the U.S., in collaboration with state and local health departments, shipped samples to the CDC's laboratory in Atlanta for testing. Results could take up to a week to confirm.

The CDPH says it expects results from local testing within two days.

"Testing here will allow us to get results faster for patient care and protecting public health," Dr. Sonia Angell, California Department of Public Health Director, said in a video posted online Friday.

CDPH's Viral and Rickettsial Disease Laboratory in Richmond, California is one of the labs getting ready to begin testing. A spokesperson confirmed that the Richmond lab will have the capacity to run about 40 to 50 COVID-19 diagnostic tests a day.

The CDC-developed test is a real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction, or RRT-PCR, test that's similar to others performed in the state's labs.

In a press release, CDPH said the agency's local partners expect to start testing within a couple of weeks.