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COVID-19 Testing is Key During Pandemic

covid testing kit in packagingThe first report about the novel coronavirus from the World Health Organization (WHO) was published on January 13, 2020. On January 28, WHO released an article regarding the steps taken by China to battle the coronavirus outbreak, and on January 30, the United States declared its own public health emergency. By mid-March, patients with symptoms of the disease now called COVID-19 began to arrive at National Jewish Health and Saint Joseph Hospital. 

Early on, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave emergency use authorization for COVID-19 tests created by the Center for Disease Control (CDC). However, the tests were unreliable and it took many days to get test results back. With the pandemic growing and the need for quick and accurate test results growing more critical, something had to give. 

“We could see that there was a need for faster, more reliable testing,” said Jay Finigan, MD, director of The Respiratory Centers of Excellence at National Jewish Health. “We were in a race with ourselves and the virus to build as large of a testing infrastructure as we could.” 

In order to properly diagnose patients and keep health care providers safe, researchers and laboratorians at National Jewish Health worked 16 or more hours a day until a highly accurate SARS-CoV-2 test was ready for use on March 22, 2020. The hospital began running tests for its own patients, as well as patients from its clinical partner Saint Joseph Hospital.

“When National Jewish Health began testing for us, it was a game changer,” said Pete Schaad, vice president of operations at Saint Joseph Hospital. “We went from waiting seven or more days to get test results back, to knowing if a patient was COVID-19 positive in one or two days. Thanks to this strong partnership and improved turnaround times, we are able to be more agile in handling patient cohorting and care.”

With the pandemic under better control, both National Jewish Health and Saint Joseph Hospital are now seeing a return to care for patients, many of whom had put care on hold during the first part of the pandemic. As patients return, reliable and timely testing is essential to keeping patients and staff safe. Protocols at both institutions were established that require patients and visitors to be screened before entering our facilities, and some patients must be tested for COVID-19 and receive a negative result before they are able to be seen for certain appointments or procedures. 

As the COVID-19 pandemic persists, testing continues to be critical for all. Whether it be to properly identify a COVID-19 patient or to allow a patient to see their provider in-person, testing for COVID-19 is an important piece of the new normal protocol of health care.