Nebraska Public Health officials say increased in-state and national laboratory COVID-19 testing capacity and result turnarounds of four days or less means health providers can now favor laboratory confirmation of the illness over a clinical diagnosis.
In a DHHS Health Alert Network Advisory, Dr. Gary Anthone says the development means doctors should have a low threshold for ordering a COVID-19 test, as widespread testing is among the most critical tools in reducing the spread of the disease, and enabling return to a more normal lifestyle.
Anthone says in-state testing capacity now exceeds 1,000 tests per day at locations including the Nebraska Public Health Laboratory, Creighton-CHI, Regional Pathology Services at the Nebraska Medical Center, Bryan Health and several laboratories which recently implemented point-of-care testing,
In addition, Anthone says national labs (LabCorp and Quest) have provided what is characterized as excellent supply of COVID-19 testing with excellent turnaround time, and both Abbott and Cepheid have shipped test kits to Nebraska providers, which are expected to increase in the coming weeks.
Anthone says as an alternative to the in-state and national commercial laboratories, providers are now welcome to order COVID-19 testing at NPHL on any patient suspected of COVID-19 infection.
In the advisory, Anthone says to maximize throughput at NPHL, the lab asking doctors categorize test samples as high or low likelihood of infection to allow group testing of pooled specimens. Pools are created using five individual specimens of those considered low-risk and if the pool tests negative, all five contributors are considered negative.
If the pool tests positive, the individual contributors to the pool are retested separately. Officials say the process conserves reagents and allows more persons to be tested.