COVID-19 testing at different labs blurring the results

Mar 25, 2020

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.