New York City Announces New Testing Tools Against Novel Coronavirus

February 29, 2020 Updated: February 29, 2020

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and the city’s health commissioner Oxiris Barbot issued a joint statement on Feb. 29 saying that the city will be able to test samples of the novel coronavirus virus going forward.

“Today, the FDA [Food and Drug Adminstration] approved our application to develop our own test for the coronavirus,” de Blasio said.

The mayor added that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has sent new testing kits, meaning that New York City will be able to confirm results from testing “in a matter of hours, not days” within the coming week.

“Quick detection is vital to stopping the spread of the virus, and this development will help the experts do their job to protect New Yorkers,” de Blasio said.

Barbot stated: “Having tests available will significantly reduce the amount of time we have to wait to know whether someone has the virus that causes COVID-19.”

She added that it was the “strong partnership” with the New York State health laboratory that made the new testing possible.

Also on Feb. 29, the FDA issued a new policy allowing certain laboratories in the United States to develop diagnostic tests for the virus before the FDA completes its review of their Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) requests.

“Under this policy, we expect certain laboratories who develop validated tests for coronavirus would begin using them right away prior to FDA review,” said Jeff Shuren, director of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health.

FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn said the policy strikes the “right balance” in response to the public health emergency.

“We will continue to help to ensure sound science prior to clinical testing and follow-up with the critical independent review from the FDA, while quickly expanding testing capabilities in the U.S.,” Hahn said.

On Saturday, New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo also announced that the state’s coronavirus test has been approved by the FDA, and that tests will begin right away at the Wadsworth Lab in Albany.

“This approval will expedite wait time and improve New York’s ability to more effectively manage the Coronavirus situation as it unfolds,” Cuomo said.

There are at least 70 known cases of coronavirus in the United States with one fatality. There are none detected in the state of New York so far.

The sole death was reported in the state of Washington. The man in his 50s had underlying health conditions that made him a “high-risk” patient of the virus. Washington state has declared a state of emergency over the death as the man had no recent travel history to countries with known virus outbreaks and had not come into contact with known virus carriers.

Also on Saturday, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene announced that the city’s eighth person has tested negative for the virus.

Of the eight people tested, 7 are residents of New York City.

Outside of New York City, 21 people have tested negative for coronavirus in New York as of Feb. 29.

Follow Frank on Twitter: @HwaiDer