Doctors in Michigan who want to test suspected COVID-19 patients can now send specimens to one of two national labs, Quest Diagnostics, and LabCorp.
That's in addition to the lab run by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
It's hoped the additional testing facilities will reduce the pressure on state labs across the country, which have been constrained by a lack of enough tests developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
MDHHS said as of Friday, it could test samples from 86 individuals per day. The agency is requiring doctors who want to test a patient for COVID-19 to go through a screening with their local public health department. The public health department then gets final permission for testing from MDHHS.
Tests sent to the private companies will need to be shipped to out-of-state labs.
Quest Diagnostics says its testing for COVID-19 is currently limited to its Infectious Disease laboratory in San Juan Capistrano, in California.
LabCorp's headquarters are in North Carolina. The company says it will be able to get test results in 3-4 days.
It's not clear at this point how many tests from around the country and from Michigan the two private labs will be able to process per day.
Lynn Sutfin is a spokeswoman for MDHHS. She says health care providers are expected to coordinate with local health agencies concerning persons under investigation for COVID-19 even if they are sending specimens to a private lab.
Susan Ringler-Cerniglia is with the Washtenaw County Health Department. She had a somewhat different expectation for how doctors would utilize the services of the private labs for COVID-19 testing.
She said in an email statement:
We don’t expect that coordination to go through local public health departments. But we are working closely with health care providers to make sure we have notification of testing, so we can investigate possible, local exposure(s) if a test should be positive.
As of March 9, the MDHHS website said it had approved 63 people for testing for COVID-19. 39 have tested negative. Tests for 24 people are pending.