3 Jacksonville hospitals equipped for rapid COVID-19 testing

Coronavirus rapid testing

Jacksonville, Fla. — The Food and Drug Administration approved what it hopes will be a game-changer, when it comes to diagnosing COVID-19.

It’s called rapid testing, and Jacksonville has hospitals that have the resources to do this.

Action News Jax reporter Courtney Cole spoke to the Yvette McCarter, the director of the Clinical Microbiology Laboratory at UF Health in Jacksonville.

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The hospital has two machines ready for rapid COVID-19 testing; McCarter said they’ve put in their order to the California-based company Cepheid. Now, they’re just waiting to receive them.

“They are trying to ramp up their production and distribute it to many as many people as they can. So we’re basically just waiting for the manufacturer to ship us the reagents,” said McCarter.

Reagents are a substance or mixture used for chemical analysis or other reactions.

According to the FDA, Cepheid is planning to roll it out by March 30.

Right now, if you get tested for the COVID-19 coronavirus, it will take between three and seven days for you to your to get results.

“The thing to remember about the three to five days and the five to seven days that we’re seeing now, it’s because of the sheer volume of the testing that’s being done in some laboratories,” McCarter told Action News Jax.

McCarter said what it’s doing faster than other tests, is amplifying the nucleic acid of the virus.

The nucleic acid is the genetic information that is unique to the virus.

"It takes maybe one copy and multiplies it into many copies, which makes it easier to detect,” McCarter said.

The rapid test also allows them to pick up very small amounts of the virus.

McCarter told Action News Jax rapid testing won’t change the steps being taken to make sure they’re testing the right people. They will still do the appropriate screening.

Here’s how the rapid screening works:

A medical professional will take a sample from you.

Then: “The specimen goes into the cartridge and into the instrument and basically the instrument does all the work for us,” McCarter explained.

The instrument she's referring to is the GeneXpert system that can run 24/7.

McCarter told Action News Jax it’s also safer for everyone in the lab.

“The other advantage actually if this instrument is you can do one test at a time. So if I get a test and now I can do it and if I get a test five minutes from now, I can also test it right away.”

Ascension St. Vincent’s and Baptist Health also have the technology to perform the rapid COVID-19 testing.