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Two Denver hospitals start in-house COVID-19 testing, results in 24 hours rather than days

Tests are only for ER patients, healthcare workers
COVID-19 testing at National Jewish
Posted at 6:11 PM, Mar 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-23 20:58:05-04

DENVER -- A large majority of Coloradans who want a COVID-19 test right now can't get one, which is one of the reasons Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said the city is having to take bold measures to prevent the spread of the virus.

Coronavirus in Colorado: Latest COVID-19 updates from March 23, 2020

As Hancock announced a stay-at-home order in Denver, two local hospitals began performing their own in-house testing for COVID-19. The test provide results in 24 hours rather than up to five days, as is currently the case when you get tested for the disease.

"You gain a lot of time with the transport to a large commercial lab in another location and that's probably the greatest savings in terms of why it's so much faster," said Dr. Stephen Frankel, Executive Vice President of Clinical Affairs at National Jewish Health.

National Jewish Health announced Monday it began local testing for the virus over the weekend, starting with only hospitalized patients and health care workers. The hospital said it can currently test up to 100 patients a day and wants to expand testing to more people soon.

"Really, the only limitation for us right now is our supply chain," said Frankel. "As soon as we can get enough kits."

The hospital also launched an Acute Respiratory Clinic at its main campus in Denver.

Frankel said the new clinic can evaluate more than 30 potential COVID-19 patients a day, and is meant to help lower the burden on local emergency rooms.

National Jewish is the second local hospital to start in-house testing for the virus.

Denver Health said it got approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) late last week to launch localized COVID-19 testing, but stressed testing is only for patients who are sick enough to need hospital care and health care workers at this time. The hospital asked people not to show up at Denver Health asking for a test.

As of Monday, maximum capacity for testing at Denver Health is 276 tests per day, according to Dr. Michael Wilson, Director of Department of Pathology and Laboratory Services. Those test results are available in 8-12 hours once the hospital receives a specimen.