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Virginia's public health laboratory begins testing for coronavirus

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Posted at 5:47 PM, Mar 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-02 17:49:34-05

RICHMOND, Va. — The Department of General Services' Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services (DCLS) has begun testing for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), health officials announced Monday.

Two of the suspected cases that were tested over the weekend have both turned out negative. According to the Virginia Department of Health, no cases have been confirmed in the state at this time.

“No cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Virginia at this time, and our public health officials are working diligently to ensure early detection of any suspected cases,” said Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam. “Our ability to test suspected COVID-19 cases locally is critical to quickly diagnosing and providing treatment to anyone who may become infected, as well as stopping the spread of this novel virus among our citizens.”

Until February 29, all suspected COVID-19 samples were sent to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for testing, which health officials say could take up to a week to report results. Local testing at DCLS can cut the time to receive results to just hours.

DCLS will test samples from people identified by the Virginia Department of Health as a Person Under Investigation (PUI), meaning they meet both the clinical and epidemiologic criteria for COVID-19.

The VDH reports patients under investigation who are Virginia residents on its website. Overall, the state has tested or sent specimens from 11 PUI to the CDC for testing, and all have been negative.

“Our DCLS laboratory is pleased to be able to offer this important testing in support of Virginia’s public health response efforts,” said Joe Damico, Director of DGS. “Whether it is a new and emerging disease such as COVID-19 or routine testing for public health or environmental threats, we are committed to providing accurate and timely laboratory testing.”

Related: Local schools districts prepare coronavirus prevention strategies

“The Commonwealth's ability to test patients under investigation for COVID-19 is essential to addressing this public health threat,” said Dr. Lilian Peake, State Epidemiologist. “Detecting cases of COVID-19 early is critical in helping to prevent spread and protect our communities.”

At this time, there is no vaccine to protect against COVID-19 and no medications approved to treat it.

For more information about COVID-19, click here.