CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WHSV/WVIR) — With UVA Health now producing enough of their own COVID-19 test kits to offer them to other hospitals throughout Virginia, Augusta Health says they will be working with their partners across the mountain to provide quicker and more accessible COVID-19 testing.
Photo provided by Augusta Health
Augusta Health announced on Thursday that they are working with UVA Health for coronavirus testing for inpatients and healthcare workers as needed.
At this time, there have been no positive tests for the coronavirus in Augusta County, Staunton, or Waynesboro — but, like many hospitals statewide and across the country, Augusta County has only been able to test patients meeting strict screening protocols, including having symptoms (including a fever of at least 100.4 degrees) and having either traveled to an affected area or been in contact with a person with a confirmed case.
For patients who are not seriously ill, Augusta Health has advised them that staying home is the most effective way to prevent the spread of the virus and ensure they have the beds, ventilators, masks, tests, and supplies necessary to meet the needs of the community.
The hospital has existing partnerships with Quest and EGL for testing of outpatients for COVID-19, and UVA Health will offer them an opportunity for more local testing of inpatients.
According to UVA Health, their current testing platform allows them to administer more than 100 tests per day, and with their newly developed test system, they've offered to perform of up to 50 tests a day for hospitals across Virginia.
As of the evening of March 24, UVA Health said they had provided tests for five hospitals in Virginia and one in North Carolina.
“Our hope is that providing these tests will assist hospitals across the Commonwealth in caring for their patients and responding to this pandemic,” said K. Craig Kent, MD, UVA’s executive vice president for health affairs. “We also hope this will help to save protective personal equipment and other critical resources for Virginia’s public health needs.”
On Thursday, UVA said they had received a timely $1 million grant from the Quantitative Foundation to help them produce even more tests a day, with plans to increase the number of tests produced daily to 200 and then up to 500 a day in the next two weeks.
UVA Health was the first Virginia hospital to develop an in-house test and, with the support of that donation, they say they're working to scale up the numbers of tests they can perform as quickly as possible.
UVA Health acknowledged that limited testing availability has greatly affected the ability of care providers in many regions to accurately diagnose patients and isolate those with the disease.
The result has been increased potential for transmission of COVID-19 while waiting for delayed testing results.
A lab team led by Mendy Poulter, PhD, and Amy Mathers, MD enabled UVA to start local testing last week. Prior to their in-house testing, it would take 5-9 days for test results to come back from the state lab, with testing generally limited to a few patients at most hospitals. For some medical centers, that process is still the one currently being used.
But with the test developed by UVA, turnaround time on results is under 24 hours, with the goal over the next two weeks to bring that time down to around 2 hours for UVA inpatients and 12 hours for outside hospitals.
As UVA Health expands its testing capacity, they will make tests available for inpatients at Virginia hospitals, hospitals in nearby states, as well as clinical providers and first responders who have symptoms.