New rapid COVID-19 test may be coming to WNY today

Mar 23, 2020

We may find out later Monday if there will be large shipments of a new test for the COVID-19 virus coming to Western New York.

The new test from Cepheid was approved on Saturday on an emergency basis by the federal U.S. Food and Drug Adminsitration. Catholic Health Systems President and CEO Mark Sullivan said his system is ready to spend millions of dollars to buy the tests and run up to 800 a day looking for the virus.

Catholic Health facilities like Mercy Hospital in South Buffalo could begin testing many more potential COVID-19 patients.
Credit Google Maps

Because of a shortage of test kits, Erie County has run just over half that total since the COVID crisis started. Sullivan said the tests are one of the two keys. The other is safety equipment for workers.

"We must provide them the personal protective equipment and we must be able to test. So I'd rather have less press conferences and more action, so the caregivers that are doing the best job for us at Catholic Health have the tools they need," Sullivan said. "If they have the tools they need, they will shine beyond what you can imagine to help us with COVID."

Every one involved in dealing with the crisis says there are far more cases than current testing is finding, but the testing will find people who need treatment. Sullivan said that is why Catholic Health is rushing to ready St. Joseph's Campus of Sisters Hospital in Cheektowaga as an exclusively COVID hospital. That would allow better and quicker treatment and discarding of protective equipment.

Sullivan said Cepheid's leaders meet Monday morning and will decide who to supply.

"Where would you like these tests sent to? We currently know there's a cap on the number of tests that Catholic Health will receive and substantially below its capacity for production. That's a problem," he said. "So I'm reaching out to you today, and all the elected officials that are listening, to take action, now. Western New York does not have enough testing and we do not have the weapons we need for our health departments and our caregivers at the bedside that are trying to support our community."