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Extended coronavirus testing in Erie County pinned to private labs, hospitals

During a daily county coronavirus briefing, Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein said 'opportunities to be tested are really limited.'

AMHERST, N.Y. — The Erie County Health Department gave its clearest indication of how it sees the future of COVID-19 testing here. In a word, limited.

During a daily county coronavirus briefing on Thursday, Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein said, “Opportunities to be tested are really limited.”

Samples for health department ordered tests were collected at the Amherst Parks Department garage on Maple Road on Thursday. It has served for the last two days as a drive-thru testing site.

Dr. Burstein said again Thursday that the criterion for a test through her department were four categories only: pregnant women near or after birth, people and staff living in group settings, law enforcement, and health-care workers.         

That’s how Jessica Campbell-Lewis qualified for her test. The registered nurse from Grand Island was directed to the drive-thru site Wednesday.

It was the first time she had left her home in 14 days after coming down with the classic coronavirus symptoms: fever, dry cough and shortness of breath.

Campbell-Lewis notes she’s been fever-free for the last eight days.

“Still a little bit short of breath. I’m hoping that has more to do with the fact that I’ve been cooped up in my bedroom the entire time,” she said.

She’s been told it will be five to seven days before she could expect test results.

“God forbid that I am positive,” Campbell-Lewis said.

But in a phone call from the health department late this afternoon, there was good news. Test results were negative.

There was a different outcome for Kevin Thomson. He's been told he is has COVID-19. His test came through source outside county government.

He received a coronavirus exam Monday night at Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital. The hospital’s parent company, Kaleida, says it does “extraordinarily limited” testing of employees and critical care patients.

There was hope COVID-19 testing co the expansion of testing appears in doubt.uld be expanded with the newly approved, so-called “45-minute test.” Catholic Health Systems (CHS) announced its hospitals have equipment capable of running this new test.

But on Thursday CHS put out a statement, which included this: “Catholic Health is still waiting for supplies to begin onsite rapid COVID-19 testing. We are working directly with the Governor’s office and local government officials to secure testing supplies for WNY given the global demand.”

But minus private sector players the expansion of testing appears in doubt.

In a statement, the Erie County Health Department says, “The number of people who can be tested locally will depend on the overall supply and capacity of private/hospital labs and commercial labs.”

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