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New Partnership May Double Kentucky's Coronavirus Testing Capacity

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Gov. Andy Beshear announced on Sunday a new testing arrangement with Gravity Diagnostics, a Covington based laboratory, that could double Kentucky’s weekly testing capacity.

The arrangement could result in up to 2,000 tests a day and provide results the next day, according to the governor. However, Beshear said at a press briefing on Sunday evening the capacity is dependent on the availability of testing swabs, a piece of equipment Beshear said are in “critical demand” and hard to come by. Beshear said the state was looking at manufacturing options to obtain more swabs.

“This is a significant step for us, it means that if we can get the swabs we need, we can make sure there isn’t any area of the state that doesn’t have, at least compared to the rest of the country, a pretty significant ability to test.”

Beshear said that the tests are meant to expand capacity outside of the so-called Golden Triangle of Louisville, Lexington and Northern Kentucky, where Gravity Diagnostics is based. Beshear added that testing tier one patients will be the priority. Those include medical professionals, first responders and people who are symptomatic or at high risk.

Beshear touted the 24 hour turnaround as being a major improvement over many labs, which take seven to ten days to furnish results. “The ability here, in 24 hours, means if you’ve got a group of healthcare workers that are self quarantined and we really need them in the hospital, we can get that back and they can get back to work.”

The materials will be shipped on Monday and the testing is expected to begin as soon as Tuesday. 

38 New Cases

Beshear announced five new deaths and 38 new cases on Sunday, making a total 955 positive tests in Kentucky. The governor said Sunday's number of positive coronavirus tests may be the fourth consecutive day when increases are about the same, but cautioned that these numbers may be on the low side due to the weekend and fewer reported tests. But he said they may indicate Kentucky's escalation has been steady compared to other states. 

“That is pretty good news, if you can find good news in the midst of this crisis,” Beshear said.

Beshear said that the number of COVID-19 cases is projected to peak in early May in Kentucky but that Kentucky hospitals appear to have the capacity to deal with a surge in COVID-19 cases.

The governor also announced the state has activated a total of 334 members of the National Guard to help at food banks and hospitals across Kentucky. 

The state has won the first round of the lawsuit challenging the ban on travel to other states, according to the governor.. The lawsuit asked for a temporary injunction against the governor’s order restricting travel. A judge denied that injunction.

Jared Bennett is an investigative reporter and deputy editor for LPM. Email Jared at jbennett@lpm.org.

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