Juneau to receive machine to process COVID-19 tests faster
JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Juneau will receive its own machine to process coronavirus tests starting in December, which should lead to a quicker turnaround time for results.
The Juneau Assembly had authorized $700,000 from the federal coronavirus aid fund for testing equipment in June. But with the machines in high demand across the world, the city expected to have to wait until 2021.
The new machine will be able to process almost 400 tests every eight hours. That means people should be able to receive same day or next day results, KTOO Public Media reported.
“Ideally, we will have the staff and supplies in order to process all of our tests that occur in Juneau on the system,” said Emergency Operations Center Planning Chief Robert Barr.
Juneau currently conducts roughly 150 to 200 tests a day on average, Barr said. Every test must be flown to a laboratory in order to be processed. Most results still currently take two to three days to finalize, KTOO Public Media reported.
“A test is a point in time, right? So the closer to that point in time that you can tell someone that they tested negative or they tested positive, the higher value that test has,” Barr said.
There have been 17,597 confirmed cases, 475 hospitalizations and 84 deaths in the state from the coronavirus since the beginning of the pandemic, according to the state Department of Health and Social Services.
The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.