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National shortage of coronavirus testing kits, as 27 cases reported in Erie County

Erie County Department of Health
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz and County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein provide an update on COVID-19 cases.

Erie County may have to stop testing local residents for the COVID-19 virus, as test supplies are running out.

There has been a massive push across the country and in Erie County to test potential victims of the novel cornonavirus to allow them to be treated and to help develop a picture of how the disease is developing. A series of local labs want to join the County Public Health Laborator, Albany's Wadsworth Labs and a few others in testing.

The county, itself, is testing hundreds of samples of possible novel coronavirus cases. To do that test, the county Health Department needs the swabs which take the tissue samples and the reagent for the chemical reaction used for testing.

County Executive Poloncarz has pointed out the original 450 tests were running out, although he has been able to find 200 of the swabs, which should arrive Thursday.

"There's a national shortage of the testing reagent and viral swab collections kits to do the appropriate testing," said County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein. "We know there are laboratories coming on line across New York State and the rest of the United States. The sole limiting factor is the supplies and materials that we need to actually get the tests done."

Burstein said she does not know when there will be more testing kits.

"We do not have a timeline for when we will receive the supplies that we need," she said. "There is a national shortage of viral swab collection kits. There's a national shortage of the reagents that you need to use to run the tests. So we're in competition with many other labs across the country for these supplies."

Every batch of tests is finding more residents infected with the coronavirus, suggesting it's freely circulating in the community and periodically attacking some and infecting them.

So the Health Department said until further supplies for testing and sample collection are received, it will not be scheduling sample collection or accepting samples for testing at its Public Health Lab. An announcement will be made when testing can resume.

If you are already scheduled for sample collection, the Health Department said you will still have your sample collected and tested. Report to the location at the time scheduled.

Private labs are also still performing COVID-19 tests with a physician’s authorization.


There are now 27 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Erie County. The Health Department has released results of its disease investigations on the individuals who tested positive. As of the close of business Wednesday, six new cases were confirmed;

  • a man in his 40s
  • a woman in her 30s
  • a man in his 20s
  • a man in his 20s
  • a woman in her 40s
  • a woman in her 40s

The cases indicate that COVID-19 is no longer an illness of the elderly. Ithas been infecting people of all ages.
The Health Department said people who have tested positive live in many regions of the county: Amherst, Blasdell, Buffalo, Clarence, Cheektowaga, East Aurora, Holland, Lancaster, North Collins, Williamsville and Hamburg. All have been placed in mandatory quarantine to monitor for COVID-19 symptoms.

Symptoms can appear 2-14 days after exposure. They include fever of 100.4 or higher, cough and shortness of breath.

One man in his 30s recently traveled out of state and has tested positive for the virus. Here is his itinerary:
3/10, West Jet Airline, Flight 4 from London to Toronto, arriving at 11:10 a.m.

3/10, United Flight 4233 from Chicago to Buffalo, arriving 8:30 p.m.

3/11, WellNow Urgent Care on Transit Road in East Amherst

3/11, Larkin Center Office Building at 701 Seneca Street in Buffalo, 3-7 p.m.

3/11, Robert H. Jackson United States Courthouse in Buffalo, midday

3/13, Walmart on Niagara Falls Blvd. in Amherst, 1 p.m.

3/14, Wegmans in Blasdell, 3-3:30 p.m.

3/14, Bed Bath and Beyond on McKinley Pkwy. in Blasdell, 7:30 p.m.

3/14, Buy Buy Baby in Williamsville, 8:15 p.m.

3/15, Orange Theory Fitness on McKinley Pkwy., 11:30 a.m.

3/15, Walmart on Niagara Falls Blvd. in Amherst, 1 p.m.

3/15, CVS on Main Street in East Aurora, midday

3/16, Target on Niagara Falls Blvd. in Amherst, 3 p.m.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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