Bay Area laboratory assisting in the detection of coronavirus cases

The Bay Area will be assisting in the effort to help fight the coronavirus.

Right now, when someone is suspected of having the virus, samples are sent to the CDC in Atlanta. But that’s about to change.

Some of those samples could be sent to a California department of public health lab in Richmond.

“Our goal is centered around early case recognition isolation contact tracing to prevent further spread of this novel coronavirus in our nation using effective and proven Public Health measures,” said CDC Director, Dr. Robert Redfield. 

Government officials say they are putting test kits in the hands of state and local health officials to help with early detection of the coronavirus.

Beginning next week, this facility in Richmond will be 1 of 16 California state labs testing for the virus.

“Prior to this all testing for novel coronavirus was being done at the CDC's lab in Atlanta. Testing here will allow us to get results faster for patient care and for public health," said Dr. Sonia Angell, Director of California Department of Public Health.

Doctors say the CDC was taking up to 7 days to provide test results.

Local testing could cut down that turnaround time to 48 hours.

“We know so far in the U.S. over 90% of the tests the CDC have run have been negative. So, once that test comes back negative someone can be released from whatever type of home isolation they've been on,” said Dr. Chris Farnitano, Health Officer of Contra Costa County.

The president's coronavirus tasks force says more than 20,000 passengers entering the US have now been screened at airports, including SFO.

And more than 300 Americans are now quarantined in California alone at military bases such as Travis Air Force base -- all steps to curb the spread of the virus.

“Our top priority is keeping the risk to the American public low and we're working on all fronts to do that,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Health officials in Contra Costa county won't say how many patients they've tested, but all results, so far, have been negative.

As of Friday, there are still 4 confirmed cases in the greater Bay Area. 

But the president's task force says, nationwide, they expect the number of coronavirus cases to rise. 

“We expect to see additional cases of this novel coronavirus in the United States from returning passengers as well as their contact tracing to detect human-to-human transmission within our country of close contacts,” said Dr. Redfield.