Northwell Health Labs got the federal and state go-ahead Sunday to begin manual testing for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo visited the 100,000-square-foot diagnostic facility Sunday in Lake Success. Northwell also posted a factsheet about the illness and the steps it is taking to protect patients and staff.
Meanwhile, NYU-Langone Health has established new procedures for visitors and patients at its facilities because of concerns about the spread of coronavirus.
The new rules apply at all of its facilities, including the Huntington Medical Group.
Northwell expects to manually test 90 potential COVID-19 samples within the first full day, said Dwayne Breining, MD, executive director of Northwell Labs. The facility processes about 20 million tests annually.
The lab will use a testing process developed and approved by the New York State Department of Health.
Beyond the manual testing authorized Sunday, Northwell Labs is seeking the US Food & Drug Administration’s approval to use semi-automated testing within the next week. This would give the laboratory the capability to process hundreds of tests daily, with a plan to ramp up to thousands daily in the near future.
“Over the past week, we’ve been developing the test for COVID-19, thanks to the assistance we‘ve received from New York State’s DOH Laboratory,” Breining said. “Now that the accuracy of our testing process has been validated, we can begin notifying providers and patients of their lab results and start gearing up for an automated testing process that would enable us to significantly expand the number of samples we can process.”
Testing will continue to be reserved for those at risk for severe disease and who have had confirmed close contact with an infected individual.
“Only people who meet that criteria will be tested – and that testing is currently being performed at hospital emergency departments and urgent care centers,” said John D’Angelo, MD, chair of emergency medicine at Northwell, which operates 18 emergency departments throughout New York City, Long Island and Westchester County. “Even as our testing capacity increases, we will continue to screen people judiciously so we can focus our attention on those most at risk for severe COVID-19 infection who require more-immediate and intensive medical attention. All others who are concerned about exposure but who have mild or no symptoms should recuperate at home.”
NYU Langone’s new rules include asking patients with flu-like or cold symptoms are asked to consult the doctor by phone or use Virtual Urgent Care before any upcoming appointments. Patients who show no sign of those symptoms can continue as scheduled.
The new policies aim to balance the needs of patients while maintaining a safe environment, NYU Langone said.
Visitors and caregivers are asked to follow these procedures:
For Visitors and Caregivers
- Visitors must be at least 15 years old.
- Visitors will be screened before entering patient areas. Sick visitors will be asked to leave.
- The number of visitors per patient will be limited; additional restrictions may be imposed based on the patient’s clinical status.
- One visitor per adult patient.
- Two visitors per pediatric patient are allowed in the pediatric units. Parents, guardians, or family care partners only.
- Two visitors per patient are allowed in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Parents or support persons only.
- Two visitors are permitted for obstetric patients. Partners and grandparents only.
- Visitors are prohibited in adult ED patient areas. For patients requiring assistance, one visitor may be permitted.
- Only one visitor per pediatric patient is allowed in the pediatric ED. Parent or caregiver only.
Outpatient Locations and Physician Practices
- One person is allowed to accompany each patient to an appointment, unless an aide or assistant is required.
- Any visitor who is coughing or shows other signs of illness will be asked to leave.