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WATCH: California Doubles COVID-19 Test Capacity With New High-Speed Lab

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom is providing the latest update on the state's response to the coronavirus pandemic (you can the press conference above), including the announcement of a new $25 million lab that officials say will double the state's capacity to test for COVID-19 and speed results to patients in less than two days.

The new lab in Valencia will be able to process up to 150,000 test kits daily. It will focus on the most commonly used polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, test, which isolates genetic material from a swab sample. It’s regarded as the gold standard of testing.

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A new testing lab in Valencia will drop the cost of COVID-19 tests from $150 to $37 each and has the capacity to process up to 150,000 kits daily. (Jackie Fortiér/LAist)
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The lab will be run by PerkinElmer, a Massachusetts-based diagnostics company that partnered with California to improve COVID-19 testing efficiency and capacity.

The unspecified contract with the company significantly drops the cost of each kit from $150 down to about $37 per test, according to a press release from Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office. COVID-19 tests are offered for free to Californians at sites throughout the state, but the state picks up the tab for uninsured residents.

The new facility will create 700 jobs, the governor’s office said. All hospitals will be eligible to use the lab, which will simultaneously allow for COVID-19 and flu testing.

The governor’s offices says the new lab will help handle an expected increase in tests as flu season approaches, since COVID-19 and the flu have similar symptoms.

Right now, the kits can only test for COVID-19. Pending FDA approval, the Valencia lab will also be able to process a new all-in-one test, developed by PerkinElmer. A single swab from a patient will allow technicians to test for three different variations of the flu virus, as well as COVID-19 and RSV, a common virus that causes cold-like symptoms.

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LATEST CA CORONAVIRUS NUMBERS

  • 4,014 confirmed positive cases this week
  • Positivity rate is 3% over the last 14 day period; 3.2% over the last 7 day period

After plateauing for weeks, new coronavirus cases have ticked up, especially in Southern California. Newsom’s gradual reopening system rates nine counties as too risky to reopen, including Los Angeles County.
California is still looking better than many other states. It has the 11th lowest positivity rate in the nation, according to a Johns Hopkins University COVID tracker.

After lessons learned during a surge of cases in July, Newsom’s administration rolled out an easy-to-understand, color-coded reopening structure that sorts counties into four tiers based on the severity of their local outbreak and restricts which businesses can be open and what rules they have to follow. But it’s come at a cost -- California has the third highest unemployment rate in the nation.

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