Yale New Haven Health works to expand COVID-19 testing

Yale New Haven Health is ramping up efforts to screen patients for COVID-19 by using a laboratory developed test validated by the Clinical Virology Laboratory at Yale New Haven Hospital. The slow rollout of testing across the country prompted YNHHS to develop its own test to mitigate the impact of the pandemic in Connecticut.

Efforts are underway to increase testing to 300 to 400 tests per day.

To perform COVID-19 tests, the Virology Laboratory at Yale New Haven Hospital uses the same procedure established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, obtaining the components from various suppliers, and then adapting the instruments the lab regularly uses for other tests. Marie-Louise Landry, MD, director of the clinical virology laboratory at Yale New Haven Hospital, said their test is basically the same one used by the public health laboratories.

Before YNHHS got the green light to test independently, the lab worked intensively, 12-14 hours a day, seven days a week to fine tune the test. The Lab then sent its first five positive and the first five negative patient samples to the Connecticut Department of Public Health lab for confirmation.

“Previously, we had tested three ‘blinded’ panels of positive and negative samples from the state Department of Public Health and our results matched theirs, so they knew our testing met their standards,” Dr. Landry said.

It can take between five and 14 hours (if a sample arrives after 8:00 p.m.) to get the test results. Due to concerns around potential shortages, testing was initially focused on the patients who need the test most urgently, including admitted patients at Yale New Haven Hospital and at other system hospitals (Bridgeport Hospital, Greenwich Hospital, Lawrence + Memorial Hospital and Westerly Hospital.) It is now expanding to YNHHS healthcare workers, urgent ambulatory patients, and then hopefully emergency department patients. Individuals who cannot be accommodated by the Virology Laboratory at YNHH can have their samples sent to Quest.

“It is a manual test and it needs to be very precisely executed, and three separate PCR tests are required for each sample. Thus it is harder to scale up. Staff from other labs have volunteered to help Virology perform its other testing if they can, but since Virology is so specialized, it is not simple to train, especially in the midst of a surge,” Dr. Landry said.

Any of the tests performed in the Virology Lab will need a doctor’s order. Call your primary care doctor right away if you develop symptoms such as fever, cough or shortness of breath. Your doctor will determine whether a test is needed and provide a location and steps for being screened.

If you don’t have a primary care doctor, call the YNHHS COVID-19 Call Center at 833-ASK-YNHH (833-275-9644).