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WSU will begin processing hundreds of coronavirus tests

Washington State University will run as many as 2,000 COVID-19 tests per day for the eastern part of the state.

PULLMAN, Wash. — Washington State University is set to begin processing hundreds of daily coronavirus tests beginning this week.

The expanded testing is "part of the overall effort to safely reopen the economy in the state and the region," university leaders say.

WSU One Health Diagnostics builds on the work of its Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory, which regularly handles tests for animal pathogens and has experience in handling high volumes. This will be the first time, though, that the university will conduct tests on human samples. 

The lab has already conducted some COVID-19 tests for companion animals with no positive tests to date.

WSU will run as many as 2,000 COVID-19 tests per day for eastern Washington, according to the university. 

WSU is proud to be part of the effort to increase the testing capacity for the state of Washington, and in particular for the eastern part of the state,” said Guy Palmer, professor of pathology and infectious diseases. “Testing is critical to curbing the transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19. It lets the individual know if they need to self-isolate, and as a community, it helps us judge if current public health measures are adequate.”

The university will process samples collected at multiple sites in the state. Range Health, a WSU-affiliated nonprofit that runs a mobile medical unit serving rural areas, will also start collecting samples from people in smaller towns and communities.

The university will work in collaboration with the state Department of Health and a private, Spokane-based laboratory that will handle pre-and post-test analysis. 

RELATED: Free curbside coronavirus test sites open in Spokane beginning Tuesday

In addition to testing diagnostic samples, WSU can also process antibody tests that can show whether someone has had coronavirus in the past. 

A positive antibody test does not guarantee that someone is immune to contracting COVID-19 again. They can help epidemiologists understand how widely the virus is being transmitted in the community by people without symptoms, and evaluate if current health and safety measures are adequate.

RELATED: Coronavirus antibody levels may decline quickly, Chinese study suggests

Palmer said human tests at One Health Diagnostics will be handled separately from those of animals, which will continue at usual levels. The two types of samples will be processed in different areas and follow a different set of protocols.

WSU has been certified to handle human sample testing through a process called Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendment, and its testing proficiency has been evaluated by the state Department of Health.

RELATED: WSU researchers begin testing animals for COVID-19

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