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Thursday, March 4, 2021

New lab might provide same-day COVID-19 tests for $1.30

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Delaware State University Kirkwood Highway
A COVID-19 testing lab is planned for this Delaware State University building on Kirkwood Highway. (Photo courtesy of New Castle County)

New Castle County and Delaware State University officials today offered optimistic numbers for lower costs and faster turnaround with a COVID-19 testing lab planned on Kirkwood Highway.

The cost of the tests could be as low as $1.30, said Dr. Derrick Scott, an assistant professor of biological sciences at Delaware State. That compares to the $50 or so that the university is now spending, said Tony Allen, the university’s president, and the $90 to $100 that New Castle County is spending, County Executive Matt Meyer said.

Test samples delivered in the morning should get results that day, Scott said, compared to the 30- to 36-hour turnaround that Allen said that the university now experiences.

And once it’s ramped it, the Miltown lab could handle a thousand tests a day, probably using saliva-based RT-PCR testing, Scott said.

The county is allocating up to $5 million in federal CARES Act funding “to get all the people and machinery running” Meyer said.

The act to combat the pandemic requires that all its funding be spent by Dec. 31. After that, “we’ve made a commitment to staff the facility,” Allen said, and it will be “an ongoing part of our budget.

“We need to find a way, and we will find a way,” Meyer said of funding after this year.

The lab is planned for 5,600 square feet of unused space in a wing of the old armory that Delaware State uses for its School of Graduate, Adult and Extended Studies.

The project is predicted to create six to 10 jobs for people with experience in a protocol called the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments.

In his opening remarks, Meyer praised multiple people for their help with the project, including all three members of the state’s Congressional delegates. Then he smiled and said “Did I say Secretary Coons? I meant Sen. Coons.” Chris Coons has been the subject of significant speculation that he would join the Cabinet of a Joe Biden administration.

Delaware State testing lab
New Castle County allocated up to $5 million of CARES Act funding for the lab.

After the pandemic passes, all the officials said the lab could pivot to other infectious diseases.

Meyer called it “a next-generation genomics lab” that could “look at my DNA,” a more sophisticated examination of health that goes beyond asking about your parents’ health.

Allen called it a “a new frontier” for public health, “particularly for communities of color,” and with chances for both undergraduate and graduate students to learn.

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