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State Partnering With Hospitals to Expand Novel Coronavirus Testing Capacity in New York

While there is currently no vaccine for the novel coronavirus, everyday preventative actions can help stop the spread of this and other respiratory viruses...

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During a briefing on the novel Coronavirus at his office in midtown Manhattan, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the world-renowned Wadsworth Center — the research-intensive public health laboratory housed within the State Department of Health — is partnering with hospitals to expand surge testing capacity to 1,000 tests per day statewide for the novel coronavirus. The Wadsworth Center will provide these hospitals with instructions on how to replicate the State’s test, as well as help them purchase some of the equipment necessary to develop and validate the test.

The Governor also announced the state will institute a new cleaning protocol at schools and in the public transportation system to help stop any potential spread of the virus.

This announcement follows the Food and Drug Administration’s approval for the Wadsworth Center to begin tests for the novel Coronavirus — the first non-CDC test that has been given approval by the FDA. The first confirmed case of the novel coronavirus in New York, a woman in her thirties, was done through the State’s Wadsworth testing lab.

“We have the best health-care system in the world, and we are leveraging that system to help contain any potential spread of the novel coronavirus in New York,” Governor Cuomo said. “We will expand testing so we can do 1,000 tests per day thanks to the State’s world-renowned Wadsworth Lab in partnership with hospitals. And we are instituting a new cleaning protocol at our schools, in our public transportation, and elsewhere to contain any potential spread. This isn’t our first rodeo – we are fully coordinated, we are fully mobilized, and we are fully prepared to deal with the situation as it develops.”

Last week the Governor announced he is requesting a $40 million appropriation for the New York State Department of Health to hire additional staff, procure equipment and any other resources necessary to respond to the potential novel coronavirus pandemic. The Governor will also propose legislation to clarify authority for governor to take certain statewide actions and measures in response to the novel coronavirus outbreak as needed. DOH is ALSO convening local health departments and hospitals statewide to review protocols, best practices and procedures to help ensure they are prepared to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus.

On Saturday, New York State received notification that the FDA approved Wadsworth lab’s Emergency Use Application — EUA — request to begin novel coronavirus testing using the test that the State developed and validated at the Wadsworth Center. This test will allow the State to perform testing more rapidly than sending to the CDC and to respond expeditiously when and if there is a positive case to better protect the public health of New Yorkers. Upon receipt of lab specimens, the Wadsworth Center can complete testing within three to five hours.

The Wadsworth Center began testing on Saturday evening. Wadsworth’s current testing capacity is as many as 200 tests per day, and the State Department of Health will work to expand capacity through expanded lab hours and the hiring additional staff.

The approval comes at a critical time as the CDC and the DOH have expanded testing criteria to include travel from other countries – specifically Italy, South Korea and Iran – and others without travel history where individuals are hospitalized with respiratory symptoms with no other explanation.

So far, Wadsworth Center has received samples from 4 New Yorkers for testing: 2 came back negative; 1 came back positive; and 1 is still pending. Previously, samples from 28 New Yorkers were sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for testing, all 28 came back negative.

While there is currently no vaccine for the novel coronavirus, everyday preventative actions can help stop the spread of this and other respiratory viruses:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
    Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • Individuals who are experiencing symptoms and may have traveled to areas of concern or have been in contact with somebody who has traveled to these areas should call ahead to their healthcare provider before presenting for treatment.

New Yorkers can call the State hotline at 1-888-364-3065, where experts can answer questions regarding the novel coronavirus. In addition, the Department has a dedicated website which was created as a resource with updated information for New Yorkers. The Department has also launched two public service announcements on the novel coronavirus, one featuring State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker and another with general information, that are running statewide in multiple languages.