By Wilson Walker

MARTINEZ (KPIX 5) — The effort to increase coronavirus testing capacity in the United States is about to get a big boost from a Bay Area lab.

“Right at the beginning of February we started to work on the development of this test,” explained Paul Brown, Global Head of Roche Molecular Solutions. “People have literally worked night and day across all of our organization.”

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Brown and his team have been working on a coronavirus test for six weeks. Now they can use it.

“Pretty much the stroke of midnight when we got the call with the authorization from the FDA,” Brown said of the emergency authorization to distribute the test. It will be shared with 37 labs around the country. Roche is also scaling up production. 400,000 tests will go out in the coming days.

“Then, thereafter, we’ll be able to supply about 400,000 tests a week, so 1.5 million per month,”  Brown said.

The Rosche test is a large piece of President Trump’s plan to expand testing capacity nationwide through a number of private labs. As for who should be tested, that process will start with a website that is supposed to go live on Sunday.

“The goal is for individuals to be able to drive up and be swabbed without having to leave your car,” President Trump said in the White House Rose Garden. “Want to thank Google. Google is
helping to develop a website. It’s going to be very quickly done.”

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However, Google’s communication arm later posted a tweet that refuted the president’s claim.

“People are frustrated,” said Dr. Rohan Radhakrishna of Contra Costa Regional Medical Center. “We were promised at the federal and state level that everyone could be tested and that was not a reality. We’re doing our best to test those that meet the criteria.”

In Contra Costa County, health officials have just started using private labs to expand their testing capacity.

“From the past few weeks we’ve got to work with what we have, not what we’ve been promised,”  Radhakrishna said of the testing challenges. “Testing gives us more information about how much community transmission is there.”

While more testing will ease the minds of sick patients and frustrated doctors, we have already done enough testing to know that the virus is circulating in our community.

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“Our advice of isolation, quarantine, social distancing,”  Radhakrishna says. “That can be more powerful than testing. So more important than getting a test if you’re getting anxious, is ‘When in doubt, don’t go out.'”