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Official: CHCC to acquire machine for coronavirus tests

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THE Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. will soon have the ability to test a person under investigation for Covid-19, CHCC Chief Operating Officer Subroto Banerji said.

CHCC, he added, is now renovating the hospital’s laboratory to house the machine that CHCC will acquire and use for testing.

He said there are two types of testing for coronavirus: rapid and molecular.

“Rapid testing produces test result quickly. But it is still in the works by a variety of companies and still awaiting FDA approval,” he said.

Molecular testing is the current method used for coronavirus, he added.

For this type of testing, there are three phases: “There’s the nasal swab that is put into a [test] kit, and then in a machine called ABI 75000,” Banerji said.

CHCC has the swabs, but not the machine, he added.

“We don’t really need test kits at this point. It’s Guam that needs to have all those kits so they can take our swab and test it,” he said.

Since February, the CNMI has sent four specimens to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Hawaii and Guam. All tests came back negative.

Banerji said test kits will be needed by CHCC once the ABI machine arrives in April.

“We are moving forward and renovating our laboratory to get to a certain level that will allow us to house that machine properly,” Banerji said, as he explained that there are requirements to be met, based on the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Act or CLIA guidelines.

CHCC’s goal, he added, is to expand the hospital’s laboratory capability to serve Saipan, Tinian and Rota.

Once CHCC has the machine, however, Banerji said they cannot test everyone.

“People are hearing in the mainland about drive-thru testing. We are not at the point yet. We want to be careful about the availability of testing,” he added.

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