As the country tries to meet the growing demand for coronavirus tests, some area hospitals like Tampa General Hospital are doing their own in-house testing.
The hospital recently received FDA approval for a test similar to the CDC’s version, but availability is limited.
The hospital can only do so many tests a day, so it has to limit who is eligible based on CDC guidelines that factor in whether patients show symptoms of COVID-19 as well as factors like their age and travel history.
Tampa General’s test can produce results within about six to twelve hours, according to Chief of Emergency Medicine Dr. David Wein. But he said people should avoid temptation to visit the hospital to get tested for quick peace of mind, as they may not qualify and could actually increase their risk of exposure to the virus.
"Really the last place you want to seek care in this situation is in the hospital if you have mild symptoms,” he said. “The best thing to do is contact your doctor. There are commercial outpatient labs that are able to test people and your doctor can order those tests for you through those sites."
“That being said if you have worsening symptoms, difficulty breathing, or anything that you're concerned about, you know, you're immediately getting worse, then the emergency department is still the correct place to go."
Wein said the hospital is in the second of its three-phase ‘pandemic plan.’ It’s dedicated a separate area of its emergency department for screening and treating patients suspected of having COVID-19. High-risk patients receive stricter isolation.
Phase three will go into effect if the hospital reaches capacity and needs to use an additional response area outside the emergency department to respond to less severe cases in order to save space for sicker patients.
Wein said the hospital, along with the rest of the nation, is working to make coronavirus testing more widely available.
Commercial labs like Quest Diagnostics and LabCorp say they are rapidly expanding their COVID-19 testing capacity nationally. These tests, which physicians can order for patients, typically take a few days to produce results.
“We anticipate that we will be able to perform 10,000 tests a day by the end of next week and 20,000 tests a day by the end of the month,” said a Quest Diagnostics spokesperson on Monday. LabCorp issued a similar statement.
Both companies urge people not to go to their facilities to have their specimens collected.