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COVID-19 testing at different labs blurring the results

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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
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The test for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 isn't simple, like the ones for the flu, strep or pregnancy. The current kits are configured more for a research lab than a hospital.

How many Erie County residents have been tested for the COVID-19 virus? Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz would like to know the answer to that question, but it is not clear.

In the beginning, that question had an easy answer, because just about all tests were being done in the county's Public Health Laboratory on the Erie County Medical Center campus.

As the crisis heated up, more labs have started testing, most visibly the State Health Department's Wadsworth labs in Albany. There are others, as well.

The issue is the important ratio of those found to be positive for the novel coronavirus to those found negative. If county officials don't know how many have been cleared, it affects decisions.

Poloncarz said Albany knows, but will not tell.

"The positives on those tests have been sent to our office. We don't get the negatives. We don't know how many people they have tested that actually have turned out to be negative," he said. "We believe it's hundreds more, but right now we know of at least 646 total tests because of all positives that are provided to us and the pendings and the negatives that we performed outself."

The county is doing more testing because more of the chemical reagent to search for the virus has been delivered. Those tests began Tuesday and the county can now do up to 350 more, hoping for additional test materials soon.

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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