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Testing of students putting pressure on COVID-19 labs

Jennifer Lewke
Updated: October 12, 2020 05:16 PM
Created: October 12, 2020 04:54 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — There are very strict guidelines for school districts when it comes to COVID-19. The state has been requiring a negative test result when a child shows even one symptom of the virus and that has started to stress some of the labs tasked with processing the swabs.

A trip to the school nurse won’t just get you out of class anymore, in most cases, it’ll get a student out of the building for at least three days. While NYS recently tweaked the requirements, it hasn’t been making a big difference.

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“The change in guidance last week does allow thankfully, for clinicians to utilize their clinical judgment ruling in or ruling out COVID-19 but the reality is, it is very hard to distinguish COVID-19 from any other upper respiratory infection… While it is good that the clinicians have that latitude, I don’t really think we’re going to see a major decrease in testing as a result of it,” said Dr. Michael Mendoza, the Monroe County Health Commissioner.  

So, most pediatricians and family doctors are still testing for COVID-19 and keeping kids out of school or daycare to be safe, until the results come back which can be challenging for working families.  

Dr. Robert Mayor, the Chief Medical Officer for Rochester Regional Health says there’s only so much they can do. 

“The testing turnaround times in our internal laboratories have remained the same, mostly less than a day but some of our testing does get sent out to reference laboratories and that can take three to four days,” he told News10NBC.

The University of Rochester Medical Center is doing all its own testing at the moment.

“Our labs do up to 2,500 tests per day. With back to school both for colleges and grade school and high school along with new mandates for nursing homes, our labs have been stressed,” said Dr. Michael Apostolakos, the Chief Medical Officer for Strong and Hyland Hospitals.

Patients in the hospital and those who are symptomatic for COVID-19 are being prioritized.

“There are times where our labs get stressed and recently we had one period where it took up to 72 hours to get the test back.  Right now, we're not sending to reference labs, were doing them all here but within the last couple of weeks, our lab was extremely stressed,” Dr. Apostolakos explained.  

Now that we’re heading into flu season, the situation will likely continue since each sample taken will be tested for both viruses, adding to the processing time.  


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