Stony Brook University Hospital executives are anxiously waiting for a back-ordered machine that will allow it to start manually testing for the coronavirus.
Conducting COVID 19 tests locally will lead to results within a few hours instead of at least two days, said Dr. Kenneth Kaushansky, senior vice president of health sciences and dean of the Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University.
"We desperately want to start testing ourselves," Kaushansky said. "I'm very concerned we are going to be swamped by people who are worried ... and they're going to have to wait 48 or 72 hours for a result."
The back-ordered machine is the Applied Biosystems 7500, a type of polymerase chain reaction device. Polymerase chain reaction is a technique used to rapidly make copies of a specific DNA or RNA sample.
The machine is expected to arrive within two weeks, Kaushansky said. In the meantime, Stony Brook is retraining technicians "so we have the staff to handle the load."
The manual tests include technicians extracting RNA from a patient sample and then amplifying the viral sequences, if present. Preparing the samples can take hours, Kaushansky said.
For now, Stony Brook is sending its coronavirus tests to a lab in Albany.
Kaushansky said Stony Brook reached out to New Hyde Park-based Northwell Health about handling its tests in the short term, but Northwell said it couldn't handle the extra manual tests.
Kaushansky said when Stony Brook goes online, it will prioritize samples from its health system, "but as capacity increases, we will be open to running tests for others."
Northwell's lab in recent days began manually processing about 90 potential COVID-19 samples daily.
Northwell and Stony Brook executives have both said they hope to get approval from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration for automated testing, which would increase the number of tests they could handle.
Kaushansky said Stony Brook already has the technology in place to run automated COVID 19 tests.