Testing Not Widely Available in NY, Despite Governor's Claim

"You can not just walk in to a hospital and get tested for COVID-19."

SHREWSBURY, MA - MARCH 19: Medical take a patient's coronavirus test during a trial run for a new FEMA drive-thru coronavirus testing clinic at CVS at 720 Boston Turnpike in Shrewsbury, MA on March 19, 2020. The clinic had a tent on Route 9 and was waitin

SHREWSBURY, MA - MARCH 19: Medical take a patient's coronavirus test during a trial run for a new FEMA drive-thru coronavirus testing clinic at CVS at 720 Boston Turnpike in Shrewsbury, MA on March 19, 2020. The clinic had a tent on Route 9 and was waiting for federal approval. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Buffalo, NY (WBEN) - Weeks into the Coronavirus outbreak, how has our ability to test for the virus grown? 

You’ll get different answers if you ask different people. 

On Wednesday, Governor Andrew Cuomo said that 28 percent of testing done in the United States has taken place in New York State, and the ability to get a test has expanded statewide.

“Any hospital in the state can perform testing,” Cuomo said Wednesday morning. “You can walk in to a hospital in Buffalo, New York, and if you show the symptoms and meet the protocol, you can be tested.”

Those words turned the heads of many in the Western New York healthcare industry. 

Shortly after the Governor’s remarks, Kaleida Health made it clear that because of limited resources, testing is being prioritized for healthcare workers and patients deemed “critical.”

“Testing is not widely available in Western New York, you can not just walk in to a hospital and get tested for COVID-19. That is certainly not the case,” said Dr. David Hughes, Chief Medical Officer at Kaleida Health. “In Erie County, there’s very few labs that can do testing.”

Because of that, Kaleida and other healthcare providers are forced to prioritize. 

Many hospitals and labs in the area have the ability to run tests, including some who say they can do rapid testing, but the lack of testing materials means that ability is going to waste.

Who bears the responsibility for getting those testing supplies in the hands of healthcare providers?

“Many would go right up to the Federal Government and the FDA for not allowing testing to occur earlier in this process. Certainly that’s an issue,” Hughes said.

Hughes added that the State has loosened some of the restrictions put on things like testing, but the FDA bears much of the responsibility to do so.

The lack of testing not only frustrating healthcare providers.

"We continue to feel the frustration of testing here in Niagara County," said Legislature Chairman Rebecca Wydysh, who said that they would have a much clearer picture of the spread of Coronavirus in Niagara County if testing was more expansive. 

"That is frustration that's being felt all over the state - we are not alone. Many counties are wishing they had more tests available and were able to do that.”

Dr. Hughes warns though, to not focus attention solely on testing capabilities when talking about fighting Coronavirus.

“Just because we’re testing doesn’t mean that we’re limiting the virus’ spread,” Hughes said. “We don’t need widespread testing to tell us it’s here… The testing is not the be-all-end-all to deciding if and when this pandemic has subsided in our area.”

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