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Some New York City hospitals are waiting days for coronavirus test results. And that is making it harder to control the spread of the virus inside those hospitals and to protect doctors and nurses. NPR's Rebecca Hersher reports.
REBECCA HERSHER, BYLINE: Seriously ill people are flooding New York City's hospitals. Emergency rooms are full. In order to limit the spread of the coronavirus within hospitals, medical workers need to identify likely COVID-19 patients and separate them into COVID-only spaces. And medical workers who get sick need to know if they have COVID-19, but that's difficult for hospitals that can't do their own testing.
Dr. Jennifer Libien is the director of pathology at SUNY-Downstate hospital in Brooklyn.
JENNIFER LIBIEN: Having your own tests really puts you in control of being able to take care of your own patients and also your physicians and your nurses and all of your health care workers.
HERSHER: Libien spent weeks trying to get coronavirus testing up and running at their hospital, which is a major medical center.
LIBIEN: We're the only hospital that has the capability of doing some of these tests within Brooklyn, which, on its own, has 2.6 or 2.7 million people.
HERSHER: But more than three frustrating weeks went by, and Libien and her colleagues still didn't have the chemical reagents they needed to start testing. Orders were getting cancelled or indefinitely delayed. The state and city governments said they were trying to help. Meanwhile, the number of COVID-19 cases was surging. More than half the hospital's patients had coronavirus symptoms as of last week. And then on Saturday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that three hospitals in the city would be designated as COVID-only, and SUNY-Downstate was one of them. At that point, they were still relying on a small private lab for all their testing, and that lab was running out of supplies.
On Monday, Libien said the hospital had finally received the chemical reagents they need. Her team was racing to validate the tests and expect they'll be able to start offering testing on Wednesday. Some large hospital systems, including NewYork-Presbyterian and Northwell Health, say they do have rapid testing for their patients and staff. But St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx is currently waiting four to six days for test results for hospital workers. A resident at a major hospital in Brooklyn, who spoke anonymously because he had been told not to speak to the press and feared it would affect his job, told NPR that he was scared for his own health and for his colleagues who can't get tested quickly and could spread the virus to their families or to patients before they realize they're sick.
Rebecca Hersher, NPR News.
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