DC, Maryland, Virginia approved to conduct their own coronavirus tests

Until this month, testing for the novel coronavirus that has affected more than 92,000 people worldwide has been a slow process. But in D.C., Maryland and Virginia, that process is speeding up dramatically.

Testing for the virus has involved sending completed tests to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta — a process that could take two weeks. But, in the past few days, the District, Maryland and Virginia have gotten the ability to conduct and evaluate their own tests, greatly speeding up the results.

The Maryland Department of Health will do testing at the MDH laboratory in Baltimore.

MDH Secretary Health Secretary Robert Neall said in a statement that the change was “crucial to our rapid response efforts, which are at the forefront of Maryland’s strategy to minimize risk.”

“Our highest priority is keeping Marylanders safe, and having the capability to test quickly for potential COVID-19 cases is an important part of that,” Gov. Larry Hogan said in the statement.

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The Virginia Department of Health said in their own statement Monday that state-level testing began over the weekend, and resulted in two negative results posted to their website on Monday.

They said the change, which will see tests processed at the Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services in Richmond, would cut testing time “from days to hours.”

State epidemiologist Dr. Lilian Peake said in the statement, “The commonwealth’s ability to test patients under investigation for COVID-19 is essential to addressing this public health threat.”

And on Tuesday, Dr. Jenifer Smith, director of the D.C. Department of Forensic Sciences, said that the District will be conducting testing through the D.C. Public Health Laboratory.

D.C. was sending samples to the CDC for testing, she said at a coronavirus response news conference that included Mayor Muriel Bowser, but now, Smith said, “we’re online and able to do that in-house.”

Smith said the laboratory is now able to process 25 tests a day, and said they’ll be able to handle 80 a day next week.

There have been no confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in D.C., Maryland or Virginia.

There are currently 107 cases nationwide, and six Americans have died.

Rick Massimo

Rick Massimo came to WTOP, and to Washington, in 2013 after having lived in Providence, R.I., since he was a child. He's the author of "A Walking Tour of the Georgetown Set" and "I Got a Song: A History of the Newport Folk Festival."

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