COVID-19 test available for UNC Health patients

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WTVD) -- A new test for the coronavirus is up and running at UNC Health.

The test is only available for patients at UNC Hospitals including UNC Medical Center in Chapel Hill and UNC Rex in Raleigh.

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"I've certainly never seen anything like this in my career," said Dr. Melissa Miller, director of the microbiology lab at UNC Medical Center. "The closest was the pandemic flu of 2009. It was still nothing to this scale."

By the end of the week, Dr. Miller said they'll be ready to do 300 tests per day. According to Miller, UNC Health has purchased additional equipment that allows them to scale up to 500 per day soon.

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"We're behind - -nationally we're behind on lab capacity," she said. "We're getting there but we're probably a month behind where we need to be. The more labs that come online like ours that are able to offer tests the better."

Dr. Miller said in the height of flu season they're not doing 500 tests per day -- that's why she stressed the number of labs that need to come online like theirs to get up to speed with testing.

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"It's not too late," she said. "We can interrupt the curve, we can decrease the number of cases the U.S. has but we really need to ramp up testing really quickly."

She said they had a coronavirus test ready to go mid-February but needed FDA approval for their tests.

"Our test was ready on Feb. 14th and when the guidance came out and there was extra work for us to do and we had to go through and check those boxes for the FDA when we changed nothing about the test, we learned nothing more about the test."

Duke should also have a test for the coronavirus out in several days.

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