Coronavirus: US government test kits are faulty and 'cannot be relied upon', New York reports

The state is developing its own test with permission from the Food and Drug Administration 

Danielle Zoellner
New York
Friday 28 February 2020 20:59
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Coronavirus: What we know so far

New York City has reported the government-issued tests are faulty and "cannot be relied upon to provide an accurate result."

"Testing for coronavirus is not available yet in New York City," city Department of Health spokeswoman Stephanie Buhle told ProPublica. "The kits that were sent to us have demonstrated performance issues and cannot be relied upon to provide an accurate result."

The test was developed by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention earlier in February. This genetic test was sent out to 100 state and city labs, in addition to overseas sites.

Reports indicate, though, that fewer than a dozen labs have produced definite results when using the test. Only the CDC and labs in Illinois, Idaho, Tennessee, California, Nevada, and Nebraska were able to run tests.

New York state and New York City are now moving forward to develop their own coronavirus test.

New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Deputy Commissioner Demetre Daskalakis confirmed with Buzzfeed News that the public health labs found problems with the current tests administered by the CDC.

Amid the issues, the Food and Drug Administration gave the labs permission to develop their own coronavirus test. The CDC is also developing a new test to be released at a later date.

“The only question is which will come on line first,” Dr Daskalakis said.

New York is currently monitoring flu and pneumonia reports hourly in emergency rooms as a way to catch any potential outbreak. A sudden increase in patients would trigger a response if the tests are not available.

“If we are starting to see a lot of pneumonia cases at a time when influenza is trending down, we would act very quickly to find out what is going on,” Dr Daskalakis said.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo urged Vice President Mike Pence to allow New York to perform its own coronavirus testing.

“The CDC has to do all the tests in Washington, how can they handle that volume? I told the vice president … ‘Look … we can do that test, we have the sophistication,’” Mr Cuomo said when speaking on Long Island Radio on Friday.

“People are coming into the airport at JFK, they’re coming from a place that may have the virus. You now have more countries that have the virus. How do you test that volume? Which is an issue right now,” Cuomo said.

The governor also intends to request an extra $40m in state funds to go towards the state's Department of Health as it tackles the virus.

New York state and New York City has requested to create its own coronavirus test. A researcher in New Jersey was pictured working on a coronavirus test on Friday 

“I want to make sure we have what we need and we have it now before you have a world scrambling to buy proper masks and gloves, etc. I want to make sure we can hire the staff now,” he said.

New York City has one possible case of coronavirus, but the test results are still pending. Another 27 cases were reported in the city but each of the results came back negative.

The initial CDC test was based on three "primer" sets to identify the coronavirus. It's the third set that is giving labs difficulty around the country, Buzzfeed News reports. The CDC gave permission for labs to just go by the first two sets, but New York and other labs reported that those can still create faulty results.

More than 80,000 documented cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed globally and more than 2,800 people have died from the disease.

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