ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – One of the keys to slowing the coronavirus pandemic is accurate testing to track the virus. By that measure, New Mexico is doing far better than neighboring states. TriCore Reference Laboratories announced Monday they were increasing their COVID-19 testing capabilities, which could deliver results for far more tests, even faster.
“They were experiencing mild symptoms,” said Belen’s Mayor Jerah Cordova on a Skype call.
He’s been cooped up inside his home, waiting to find out if one of his family members contracted COVID-19.
“For the last seven days, we’ve been in self quarantine waiting for results to come back,” said Cordova.
The tests are being done at the state lab and TriCore here in Albuquerque. Both sites can process hundreds of samples, something other states are having trouble with.
“I think what New Mexico offers is that we have a centralized laboratory service,” said Dr. Karissa Culbreath, Director for Infectious Disease Diagnostics at TriCore. “Through TriCore and through collaborations with the State laboratories so that each of these independent institutions is not trying to find their own test kits and their own reagents and their own instruments. TriCore is centralized for a lot of the testing for New Mexico.”
With so many people wanting to get tested in the state, TriCore is working through a backlog of tests that were collected prior to their increased testing capacity and said Wednesday they are working to speed up the turn-around time from when a patient is tested to delivering results.
TriCore says they are currently delivering a five-day turn-around time for COVID-19 tests and is urging anyone awaiting test results from a clinic or high-capacity collection center to continue to self-quarantine until those results are available.
Now, TriCore is in possession of a mega-machine that could help them process about one-thousand tests at a time.
“The first method we were using to detect the coronavirus is a very manual process,” said Dr. Culbreath. “It’s hands-on and requires a lot of expertise. Its a longer testing process and we cant process as many tests at a time so when we brought in the newer equipment we were able to implement in the lab, we are able to process more tests at one time, which means we are able to get out results quicker. The TriCore team worked 24/7 to bring on this new test as soon as it was available to us. We continue to explore multiple avenues to help further increase COVID-19 testing capacity for New Mexico, and will keep the community updated as these efforts come to fruition.”
So that families across the state, like Cordova’s, can know their results in about 24 hours.
“We’re hunkered down here at home, but you can get a little antsy after a while,” said Cordova.
Since launching the CDC assay for COVID-19 testing, TriCore has performed well over 4,000 COVID-19 tests. As part of the screening process for the virus, TriCore has also performed over 6,000 tests for other respiratory pathogens including influenza and RSV. They are also testing other platforms to increase testing capacity in New Mexico.
KRQE News 13 asked how big of a backlog there is, but TriCore declined to elaborate but said with their new processing machine, they will quickly clear that up.
The governor’s office said there is no backlog of coronavirus processing at the state lab. We’re told other hospitals like Santa Fe’s Christus St. Vincent is working to get their own testing site soon.