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Coronavirus: Mayo Clinic develops its own COVID-19 test

The U.S. has tested significantly fewer people for coronavirus compared to some other nations.
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The Mayo Clinic says it has developed a test that will detect the coronavirus sweeping the globe, and hopes it can lessen the burden on the nation's health authorities.

The Rochester institution announced on Thursday it had developed a test that can detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus – otherwise known as COVID-19 – in clinical samples, and says the test will be submitted to the Food and Drug Administration for review and "emergency use authorization." 

It comes as the U.S. is currently struggling to keep up with the demand for testing, and was already playing catch-up after the initial tests sent out by the CDC earlier this year proved to be flawed.

The Minnesota Department of Health admitted on Thursday that it doesn't have the capacity yet to test all upper respiratory conditions for the coronavirus, and instead is focusing on those who have either traveled to COVID-19 affected areas, been in contact with someone who recently traveled, or who has been in contact with someone with coronavirus.

"This is an issue the whole world is grappling with, so we felt like this was our moral obligation to offer testing to as many people as we can," said Dr. Matthew Binnicker, the director of the Mayo's Clinical Virology Laboratory.

"Our plan is to offer this test to anyone here at Mayo and around the country, and even from patients seen in other countries," he added, saying it can also offer significantly faster results, saying that once a sample arrives in the Mayo's lab, "the whole process from beginning to end takes somewhere between four to six hours."

As such, patients can expect results within 24 hours of when samples are collected, with positive samples sent to the Minnesota Department of Health or the CDC for confirmation.

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The Mayo Clinic says it has the capacity to run 200-300 tests daily, with the latest update from the Minnesota Department of Health saying it ran just over 100 tests on Wednesday, noting that it doesn't have an unlimited supply of available tests, which means it has to use those it has "judiciously."

"We need to get those results to our physicians and physicians around the country so that they can make those rapid patient management decisions," Dr. Binnicker said. 

"Information is power. If you have the results of the test, you can decide whether the patient has the disease or not, and then you can take steps to make decisions from there."

Dr Anthony Fauci, from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has admitted that the U.S. has been failing on testing, with the CDC having only received just over 11,000 specimens for testing so far, significantly lower than other nations dealing with the virus. South Korea, for example, has tested more than 210,000 people.

This follows an NPR report this week that suggested the country has fallen behind partly because the Trump Administration had blocked aggressive COVID-19 testing in January, as it was feared it could harm the president's re-election chances.

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