High-volume, rapid testing lab at Wichita State not yet operating at full capability

Published: Nov. 12, 2020 at 9:49 PM CST
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - A month after a celebratory ribbon-cutting for a high-volume, COVID-19 testing lab at Wichita State University, that lab is not churning out the thousands of daily tests it’s expected to process.

Thursday, a long line of people waited outside Wichita’s South YMCA to be tested for the virus. As of that same day, the positive COVID-19 test rate in Sedgwick County sat between 23 and 24 percent. This means that, currently, a little more than one out of every five people being tested for COVID-19, have the virus. The Sedgwick County Commission met Thursday and discussed the new Wichita State molecular diagnostic lab that was unveiled months ago with the ability to process more than than 4,000 tests per day with results delivered in 24 hours.

Currently, the lab is only processing about 1,000 tests per day.

“It’s not technology, it’s not equipment, it’s not test kits. It’s paperwork (it) sounds like, so I don’t know what it’s going to take, but we need to solve this as soon as possible,” Sedgwick County Commissioner Jim Howell said.

Sedgwick County planned to dedicate more than $4 million of the county’s CARES Act funding to the lab to support equipment purchases and set up. But that hasn’t yet happened. The county said there is a substantial list of information and paperwork needed from Wichita State.

Other county leaders say Wichita State is working hard and fast to get the information they need. Some Sedgwick County commissioners wanted to vote to write the check immediately. Others worry about an audit.

“What if they don’t give us the paperwork, and then we are sitting here and not able to answer questions from auditors? I think it puts our county and taxpayers at risk,” Commissioner Lacey Cruse said. “I’m willing to take a little bit of a risk to lean forward and get this going as soon as possible, even if I have to find the money someplace else in the budget. This has to be done.”

Wichita State says at this time, the lab will not charge for test kits or test analysis used to keep schools, services or businesses open. It says testing is open to the community but has not said how you can go about getting one of those test kits.

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