ABC News Corona Virus Health and Science

Children's National Hospital to offer speedy coronavirus tests for doctors, nurses

The machine takes 90 minutes and has room for three tests, the hospital said.

Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C. is touting a machine they said can complete novel coronavirus testing in about 90 minutes. The machine, which is made by a company offsite, has room for three tests, hospital officials said.

Meghan Delaney, the chief of pathology and laboratory medicine at the hospital, talked to ABC News about the tests. Currently, they're only being offered to doctors, nurses and patients at the hospital, she said.

In other words, people can't just walk in off the street and get tested.

She stressed that it’s important to test health care workers "as fast as we can," as they are the ones on the frontlines.

"The test inside each cartridge amplifies the genes of the virus," shes aid. "And then we can detect that the virus is there by finding [whether] the gene is present."

The hospital's lab, Delaney said, is a national leader in testing not only for the COVID-19, but for other infectious diseases.

She noted that its important to test the professionals working to keep others safe in order to prevent the virus from spreading across the health care system.

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"It's really important because we want to make sure that they don't expose other health care workers right now in this epidemic," she explained. "It's so important to have our workforce here able to take care of the patients."

Delaney added, "And of course, we don't want them to impact any patients. So that's a really important thing."

She noted that while every hospital in the world is concerned about their doctors, nurses and other health care workers getting infected with the coronavirus, speedy and accurate results are key.

"I think that the rapid turnaround time is one of the most important things about this test that we have," she said.

Delaney also said another problem facing the pandemic -- as people continue to self-quarantine -- is the lack of healthy donors that can get out to donate blood.

"The blood supply is the second huge concern with this coronavirus epidemic, as people are heeding the advice to socially distance and companies are closing," she said. "That's why a lot of our blood supply comes from healthy people at blood drives going in and freely giving their blood."

She added that the hospitals still have sick patients, and people are still coming to the hospital for other health reasons. Because of this, she said, keeping the blood supply in check is even more necessary.

"We still have people coming in that have cancer or that need emergency surgery where they would need a blood transfusion," she said. "But because [of] this incredible cancellation of blood drives, the blood supply in the whole country has been impacted."

While the hospital's machine is promising, one roadblock Delaney mentioned with the tests is that hospitals are facing a supply chain issue to keep up with demand -- in particular, the swabs that are used to conduct the tests.

"The test kits, which are used to collect the sample, are in short supply across the country." she said. "And so both collecting the sample, wearing the proper gear to collect the sample and running the sample -- all have issues around making sure that we have enough supplies to get everything done."

What to know about coronavirus:

  • How it started and how to protect yourself: coronavirus explained
  • What to do if you have symptoms: coronavirus symptoms
  • Tracking the spread in the US and Worldwide: coronavirus map