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Erie County running out of COVID-19 testing supplies

Erie County is running out of supplies it needs to test for COVID-19 even as the county health department expands the criteria to allow more people to be tested.

The county may run out of the chemicals and swabs needed to test for the new coronavirus in a day or two, said County Executive Mark Poloncarz.

Poloncarz said he told the Governor's Office about the need for more supplies on Tuesday morning.

“There is unfortunately tremendous demand across the country," Poloncarz said. "So I was on the phone with the Governor’s Office today to see if we can get additional kits. We certainly have enough to complete the work today. We’re hopeful that will have enough to complete the work tomorrow that is going to happen."

The Erie County Public Health Lab is the only area health lab for Western New York that has been able to test for COVID-19. It was also conducting tests for the Rochester region until very recently.

But Erie County had enough test kits to only conduct 450 tests.

The county has already tested 86 county residents, as well as tested others in other counties. There are another 225 COVID-19 tests pending.

Meanwhile, the county has loosened its testing requirements to include anyone with fever and shortness of breath, regardless of travel history, so that many more county residents who were ineligible for testing because they were not considered "high risk," may now qualify. Up until now, many residents have complained they were denied testing.

"If you meet the protocols, you will be tested under the proviso that we have the ability to do the test," Poloncarz said. "And as I just noted, while we still have enough test kits and reagents to do the tests that are scheduled today and, hopefully, through tomorrow, we’re not so certain based on the increasing demand that we’ll be able to meet that unless we get new supply. And I know we’re not the only ones dealing with that."

Three other health care providers are expected to be able to perform COVID-19 testing within days and would have the ability to significantly expand the county's testing capacity. That includes Erie County Medical Center, Kaleida Health and Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.

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