California health officials will soon be able to test for coronavirus at 16 labs across the state.
Until now, all coronavirus testing was being conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Federal officials issued an emergency authorization this week allowing some state labs to perform the tests, including several in California.
The California Department of Public Health says it will be able to test specimens in just two days, compared to the two to seven days it takes at the CDC. They expect to have the testing up and running by Feb. 12.
Tracey Goldstein, a professor of pathology, immunology and microbiology at UC Davis, says speedier lab work can help prevent disease spread.
“If there is a case that comes over, getting results quicker helps to do the contact tracing and to make sure that no additional cases occur through that contact with that one sick person,” Goldstein said.
There have been 12 confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. so far, including six in California. The virus has killed more than 600 people in China and sickened thousands more.
The federal government is identifying people coming back from certain areas of China where disease risk is high, and quarantining and testing those travelers before allowing them to return to the U.S. There are currently quarantined travelers at two U.S.military bases: Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield and Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego.
Federal and state health officials are emphasizing that the risk of catching coronavirus in the U.S. is low. They’re encouraging everyone to wash their hands, avoid sick individuals and stay home when ill as a means of preventing other infectious diseases, including influenza.
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