PORTLAND, Ore. — A new development from Providence Health & Services could greatly speed the process of testing for the new coronavirus in Oregon. The hospital network says that its lab in Portland now has the capability to conduct tests on collected samples of suspected COVID-19 patients.
The Providence Molecular Genomics Lab in Portland will process tests collected at the eight Providence hospitals throughout Oregon. According to the company, they are able to process between 500 and 600 patient tests every day — and expect to run the lab seven days a week to help meet the massive demand.
As of Tuesday, Providence said that it had received more than 300 patient samples.
"We have been developing three different tests to provide backup should we have difficulty getting supplies," Providence said in a statement.
The primary test is run on a high throughput instrument from Roche. This was the first commercial test for SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) to receive FDA Emergency Use Authorization in the U.S.
The other two are manual tests. One is based on the CDC protocol and the other is based on a protocol published on the WHO website.
Providence expects to release results of any single test within 24 hours after receiving the sample in the lab, though that could change as the lab's capacity increases.
"Our lab has over 20 years of experience in advanced molecular testing," Providence said. "We have validated many of these lab developed tests for infectious disease over the years. Back in 2009 during the Influenza H1N1 pandemic, our lab was the only one doing this kind of testing in our state."
At the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S., only public health labs — such as those operated by the CDC or by state agencies — were allowed to test for the virus. Providence said that it started preparing in case that were to change, which it has since.
"We are fortunate to have seen many advances over the last 10 years and now our colleagues in other hospital labs have the skills and equipment to do this. They are actively developing COVID-19 tests so that our entire community can be served," Providence said.
Still, the new lab does not equate to unlimited testing capacity in Oregon. Providence said that it has enough materials right now to test 2,000 to 3,000 people, and they are working on keeping supply lines open.