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March 9, 2020



Expanded testing guidelines released by NYSDOH on March 6 

Testing available to individuals who meet NYSDOH and CDC criteria


ERIE COUNTY, NY - The Erie County Public Health Lab now has the capability to test for novel coronavirus, which causes the disease known as COVID-19. The Lab received test supplies and materials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Following a period of test validation over the weekend, health care providers are now able to order COVID-19 tests from Erie County. Previous tests had to be shipped to Albany, adding to the time it would take to receive results.


“Depending on volume, we expect that results will be available to physicians and our department within 24 hours or less, as opposed to the longer turn-around times with commercial labs, the NYSDOH Wadsworth Center and the CDC,” said Commissioner of Health Dr. Gale Burstein. “These kits are FDA-approved under the current Emergency Use Authorization.”


“We are communicating with our local medical providers and health care facilities about our expanded capacity to test,” Dr. Burstein continued. “For patients to have samples tested by our lab, they will have to meet the criteria set by New York State, which continues to be updated regularly. Physicians and health care facilities can coordinate sample collection and delivery with our epidemiology office once they have approval from our epidemiology office.”


As of March 6, 2020, testing for COVID-19 shall be authorized by a health care provider when:

  • An individual has come within proximate contact (same classroom, office, or gatherings) of another person known to be positive; or
  • An individual has traveled to a country that the CDC has issued a Level 2 or Level 3 Travel Health Notice, and shows symptoms of illness; or
  • An individual is quarantined (mandatory or precautionary) and has shown symptoms of COVID-19 illness; or
  • An individual is symptomatic and has not tested positive for any other infection; or
  • Other cases where the facts and circumstances warrant as determined by the treating clinician in consultation with state and local department of health officials.


When a physician authorizes this diagnostic test for a patient who meets NYSDOH criteria, the patient would be immediately placed in mandatory quarantine per current NYSDOH guidelines. That order would be lifted upon a negative result. If positive, the patient would continue under mandatory isolation until a time determined by ECDOH.


The Erie County Public Health Lab is part of the CDC’s Laboratory Response Network, an integrated network of federal, state, local, military and other labs able to detect biological and chemical threats. Erie County has one of the approximately 120 domestic labs that are in this network. Members must demonstrate certain capabilities and capacities, and meet established performance standards. These laboratories are subjected to routine proficiency testing in order to prove testing accuracy.


Erie County has invested in technology and training for personnel at its Public Health Lab in preparation for scenarios involving novel diseases, where the ability to test can support containment and slow the spread of illness in the community. This Lab is currently one of three public health labs in New York State with the ability to test for this disease. The others are the New York State Department of Health Wadsworth Center in Albany and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Public Health Lab.


At this time, the Erie County Public Health Lab will accept samples for testing from other county public health departments. Those departments should contact the Erie County Public Health Lab before sending a sample.



Erie County Department of Health, COVID-19 resources:


NYSDOH testing guidelines for COVID-19: (published 3/6/2020)