State, hospitals to expand test capacity for coronavirus

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The state is partnering with hospitals to expand test capacity for the novel coronavirus, plus it will institute a new cleaning protocol at schools and in the public transportation system to help stop potential spread of the virus, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced today.

The Wadsworth Center public health laboratory within the state Department of Health is partnering with hospitals to expand surge testing capacity to 1,000 tests per day statewide for the novel coronavirus, said Cuomo.

The Wadsworth Center will provide hospitals with instructions on how to replicate the state's test, as well as help them purchase some of the equipment necessary to develop and validate the test, according to Cuomo's office.

HIs office said today's announcement follows the Food and Drug Administration's approval for the Wadsworth Center to begin tests for the novel coronavirus, in the first non-CDC (Centers for Disease Control) test given approval by the FDA.

"We have the best health-care system in the world, and we are leveraging that system to help contain any potential spread of the novel coronavirus in New York," Cuomo said. "We will expand testing so we can do 1,000 tests per day.... And we are instituting a new cleaning protocol at our schools, in our public transportation, and elsewhere to contain any potential spread....We are fully coordinated, we are fully mobilized, and we are fully prepared to deal with the situation as it develops."

Cuomo's announcement did not elaborate on what the new cleaning protocol for schools would entail or how it differs from current protocols.

The Wadsworth Center's current testing capacity is as many as 200 tests per day, and the state Department of Health will work to expand capacity through expanded lab hours and hiring additional staff, the announcement said.

Although there is currently no vaccine for the novel coronavirus, Cuomo's office said, it cited preventative actions that can help stop the spread of it and other respiratory viruses:

Washing hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.

Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

Stay home when sick.

Cover a cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.

Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

Individuals who are experiencing symptoms and may have traveled to areas of concern or have been in contact with somebody who has traveled to those areas should call ahead to their healthcare provider before presenting for treatment.

New Yorkers can call a state hotline at 1-888-364-3065 for experts' answers to questions regarding the novel coronavirus. Also, updated information will be at health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/coronavirus/ online.

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