UTAH, Feb. 2, 2021 (Gephardt Daily) — Intermountain Healthcare has just surpassed more than one million COVID-19 test results processed, a milestone reached nearly a year after the virus was identified in the United States.
“This milestone highlights the important role laboratories have played in combating COVID-19 and keeping the public safe,” said Karen Brownell, assistant vice president of laboratory services at Intermountain Healthcare, by way of a news release.
COVID-19 tests are processed at Intermountain’s Central Laboratory on the campus of Intermountain Medical Center in Murray and at Intermountain hospital laboratories throughout the state.
Intermountain Laboratory Services completed the one-millionth COVID test result on Jan. 28, the news release said.
“Currently, the Intermountain Central Lab can perform more than 7,000 tests per day, and more than 90 percent have results within 24 hours,” the news release said. “It was a different story back on March 13, 2020, when the lab began processing the first COVID-19 tests that arrived to be completed.
“On that first day, the laboratory team performed 14 tests. By mid-week, they were up to 204 tests a day. Initially, a lack of available testing supplies and equipment made it difficult to expand the lab’s capacity. Every time different supplies or new tests were introduced, laboratory clinicians had to develop new rigorous processes to ensure accuracy before it could be used.”
Bert Lopansri, MD, associate medical director for infectious diseases and medical director for microbiology for Intermountain Healthcare, says that in his many years of medicine he’s never seen such a stress on supply chains across the globe as the COVID-19 pandemic created in 2020.
“The demand for supplies worldwide was unprecedented and it hindered our ability to ramp up testing,” said Lopansri. “Thanks to our partnerships with the state lab and ARUP Laboratories we worked together to share supplies and ensure we could process samples to meet the needs of the community.”
Early in the pandemic the Intermountain Central Lab even worked with the Salt Lake City Mosquito Abatement District to secure the necessary equipment to process even more COVID tests.
The lab tests Intermountain uses have changed four times throughout the pandemic as more options have become available and in greater supply, the news release said.
Although the collection of samples has changed from nasopharyngeal swabs to saliva, in most cases, Intermountain Laboratory Services continues to preferentially use polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests because they’re more accurate than antigen rapid tests.
Brownell says another reason for Intermountain’s testing success is that logistics were established early to set up 25 test sites throughout the state, with caregivers to collect samples and a courier system to expedite delivery to the Intermountain Central Lab.
For more information on COVID testing at Intermountain click here.