CYPRESS, Calif. - A new lab in Orange County is making coronavirus tests more readily available with fast results, usually in 90 minutes. In this Spectrum News 1 exclusive, we bring you the story of three people who came together in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic to make it all happen.
"We were looking to see if we could reach out to the community and do something," explained Dr. Harish Yalamanchili.
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Dr. Yalamanchili recently shut down his surgical practice in Pomona because of the coronavirus but that doesn't mean he's been idle. He brainstormed with his wife, Brittaney about what they could do to help with the crisis.
"Testing is under short supply so what can we do to take it out of the hospital to make it available for the general public. So she connected the dots of what's missing and then got me and Chris together to talk about it," said Yalamanchili.
Chris Crock, Ph.D, who is Yalamanchili's brother-in-law, runs a lab in the Bay Area and had vacation time to burn. "We talked about this maybe for a day...so are you sure? Are you sure? And we made the big purchase and put it in the car and drove down," said Crock.
The 'big purchase' was a machine that allows Yalamanchili to perform PCR or polymerase chain reaction tests. It's one of two kinds of coronavirus tests currently available. The other one is a blood test that shows immunity. However, the PCR test is the only one that determines whether a person is actually infected with the coronavirus.
Crock developed protocols to use CDC methods, tools and procedures to not lose time getting approvals.
Over the new few days, Yalamanchili manned the phone, scouring the country for chemicals essential to the testing. He also bankrolled the operation. Meanwhile, Crock spent hours writing and streamlining processes and hiring and training lab personnel. The only thing missing was a lab. Several promising leads fell through, but then the pair met Michelle Huston, whose family owns the CMB Lab in Cypress.
“I thought it was too good to be true,” said Huston, "because one to two weeks prior, I was trying to get the COVID testing in and I looked into many different instruments, different vendors, made calls and there was a roadblock each time."
The perfect storm was now complete. One week later on April 2, they were running coronavirus tests in the CMB Lab.
To get the test, people need an order from a doctor before they go to a collection site for a nasal swab. The swab sample is sent by courier to the lab and a battery of procedures begins. The results are ready 90 minutes later. The doctor receives the test results and conveys them to the patient.
Currently, CMB lab can run 100 tests a day but even if its capacity is expanded, one lab is not the end goal. Crock, Yalamachilli and Huston say more labs need to follow suit.
"If there's only a few independent labs, if we can all partner and follow Chris' protocols and make sure the lab is set up efficiently, make sure every single thing is done exactly the same, together, we can beat this."
"It's about making a difference and being able to like, directly contribute to the solution, to the pandemic,” added Crock.
For more information on sites that are collecting swab samples or for contact information to set up a lab following their protocols, go to www.Covid19Collect.com.
The lab says insurance will cover the cost of testing for patients who have symptoms.