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Virginia state lab starts testing for COVID-19

A sign hangs on the door of Harrisonburg Family Practice warning patients that if they believe they may have the coronavirus or have recently traveled, they should go to the Emergency Department.
A sign hangs on the door of Harrisonburg Family Practice warning patients that if they believe they may have the coronavirus or have recently traveled, they should go to the Emergency Department.(WHSV)
Published: Mar. 2, 2020 at 4:42 PM EST
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Virginia's public health laboratory will now be able to test for COVID-19, the disease caused by novel coronavirus.

Previously, any suspected cases of the disease in Virginia required test samples to be sent to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for testing at a federal level.

But on Monday, the Virginia Department of General Services (DGS) announced that its Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services (DCLS) has begun testing for the disease.

Over the weekend, the state lab tested two suspected cases, both of which came back negative.

So far, there have been no confirmed cases in Virginia at all.

“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 Governor 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.”

Sending test samples to the CDC could take up to a week to get results, but the DGS says testing at a state level can cut the time for results down to just hours.

From here on, the Virginia lab will test samples from anyone 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 number of patients under investigation at any time is reported by the VDH on

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Overall, as of March 2, Virginia has tested or sent to the CDC for testing 11 possible samples, all of which came back 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.”

“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.”

With approval from the FDA under Emergency Use Authorization, the CDC distributed diagnostic tests for detection of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 to state labs nationwide. Virginia rolled out the new test nearly immediately.

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

For more information about COVID-19, visit

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