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Stay up to date with the latest news on the coronavirus and COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. We'll post regular updates from NPR and regional news from the WRVO newsroom. You can also find updates on our live blog.

Upstate now testing for coronavirus; most tests back within 24 hours

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Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse has been testing patients for the coronavirus in its own lab since last week. This means tests come back much faster than the 2-4 day turnaround time that was the standard.

Upstate’s chief of infectious diseases, Dr. Stephen Thomas, says lab workers are using two kinds of tests. One can get results within 24 hours, and another rapid test that can get results within hours. So far, they are averaging between 70 and 100 tests a day, and getting results quicker. That means state and county health departments can more quickly track the case, and the hospital can determine whether individuals need to be in a COVID unit. It also saves the very important personal protection equipment (PPE) that keeps health workers safe, but that can be difficult to come by.

"There can be anywhere from 15 to 20 people a day to see a patient on the COVID ward," Thomas said. "Every single one of them has to wear PPE. Some of them more than once. If you can take that three days or turn it into one day or less, you are going to save a lot of PPE."

Thomas said the rapid tests are being used in the emergency department or in serious cases, and others are being tested in batches. He said the hospital is also pursuing other testing platforms, including one that can have results in 15 minutes.

Upstate has tested over 2,000 individuals since early March. Nearly 6,000 people in total have been tested for the virus in Onondaga County.