NYC opening its own coronavirus testing lab

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New York City is opening its own coronavirus testing lab as it grapples with how to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic.

One of New Yorkers’ biggest complaints about coronavirus testing has been the delay in getting test results. So the city is taking matters into its own hands by opening the lab designed to produce rapid results.

“This is encouraging news because you can’t quarantine yourself when you don’t know exactly how long your test results are going to take, if it takes two weeks it really defeats the purpose of testing,” said Dr. John Whyte, the Chief Medical Officer of WebMD.

The new facility, called the Pandemic Response Lab (PRL) is already up and running. It’s located inside The Alexandria Center for Life Science on East 29th Street. James Patchett is the President and CEO of the city’s Economic Development Corporation, which led this effort alongside a small Brooklyn robotics firm and NYU Lagnone. Patchett tells Fox 5 that to keep the process moving quickly inside the lab, robotic arms will move trays of samples between different testing stations.

“Using robotics when there’s a variety of steps to the process really allows it to be sped up and ensure faster turnaround times are New Yorkers,” said Patchett.

Instead of depending on big private labs— which are processing tests from across the country— this new facility prioritizes New York City residents. Tests will be available within 24 to 48 hours. To be clear - PRL is not a testing site, rather a lab for processing COVID-19 test results for New York City Health + Hospitals. New Yorkers should continue to get tested at one of the many sites across the city.

"This is a really great statement about what New York can do, we can solve this problem ourselves, if we put our minds together we are going to get this done, we are not just going to rely on global supply chains or the federal government to come to the rescue, we’ve learned our lesson the hard way,” said Patchett.

The city is paying the lab $28 per test result, when it would normally shell out more than $100 per test at big national lab companies. At first, PRL will handle just a few thousand tests a day,  but it’s expected to eventually test more than 20,000 samples daily, possibly including some from public school students and teachers, depending on the need.