VCU Health administering in-house, independently developed COVID-19 test

VCU Health announced the COVID-19 test, which was developed in-house, in a statement released on Wednesday. Photo by Alessandro Latour

CT staff report

VCU Health has begun using a COVID-19 test it developed in-house to test hospitalized patients with severe symptoms from the virus, as testing materials remain limited nationwide. 

The health system aims to obtain same-day results, depending on the volume of tests, according to a statement. 

Christopher Doern, director of microbiology at VCU Health, said in the statement that being able to determine whether a patient has COVID-19 is of “critical importance.”

“Being able to do that in our own laboratory will be a game changer in how we manage patients with potential COVID-19 symptoms,” Doern said.

The in-house test will be given mostly to high-risk COVID-19 patients during the pilot phase due to the nationwide shortage of materials needed for testing. The statement says the expedited testing at VCU Health will allow health care providers to determine treatments more efficiently.

Being able to produce, administer and obtain test results in-house allows the health system to “provide quality care while maintaining a safe environment in our hospital,” said Gonzalo Bearman, director of the VCU Health Infection Prevention Program, in the statement.

Bearman said being able to rule out COVID-19 for some patients will allow for more efficient and effective treatment, as well as peace of mind for health care workers.

“One of the most incredible things is that, 10 days ago, this test didn’t exist,” Doern said in the statement. “We designed this test from the ground up in less than two weeks, a process that under normal circumstances would take a year or more.” 

At a press conference Monday, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said the state had enough supplies to test 1,000 people for the virus, and more materials are expected next week. 

Due to limited testing capacity, only the following people qualify to be tested by the Virginia Department of Health:

  • Health care workers or first responders with COVID-19 symptoms
  • People connected to a potential cluster of unknown respiratory illness in which influenza has been ruled out
  • People who have been hospitalized with COVID-19 symptoms
  • People who live in a congregate setting, such as a jail or homeless shelter, who have COVID-19 symptoms and influenza has been ruled out

The department recommends those who have had close contact with an ill COVID-19 patient stay at home for 14 days after making contact. If you have a fever, cough or shortness of breath, call 877-ASK-VDH3 immediately for help and more information.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 91 public health laboratories have completed verification and are offering testing. There are testing locations in all states, D.C., Guam and Puerto Rico.

The Association of Public Health Laboratories recommends testing for health care workers, first responders and those older than 60 with symptoms of COVID-19. People with illnesses that would be treated differently with the virus should also be prioritized.

Updates from VCU regarding COVID-19 are posted daily at

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