Pennsylvania says it is speeding up coronavirus testing

Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Rachel Levine (Commonwealth Media Services)

Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Rachel Levine (Commonwealth Media Services)

A Pennsylvania state laboratory is improving its ability to handle samples that it is testing for the new coronavirus that is sickening people across the globe, state health officials said Wednesday.

The lab can now handle about 25 samples a day and that rate should increase in the coming days after it gets a piece of equipment, an extractor, that boosts its testing capacity, a Department of Health spokesman said.

There have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania, where testing and tracking began about a month ago, officials said. The Department of Health is not releasing any information about who it has tested or the number of tests it has performed, spokesman Nate Wardle said.

Hospital and state officials in Pennsylvania are encouraging people who fear they may have contracted coronavirus to call their doctor or hospital, rather than go to an emergency room. Those health care workers can determine the next steps and take a sample if testing is necessary.

Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine has said private labs are also likely to soon get federal permission to perform testing.

The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus climbed to 11 on Wednesday, with one in California and 10 in Washington state.

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