Health officials in New York are moving to expand monkeypox testing capacity with the approval of an application by Quest Diagnostics to use real-time PCR technology to identify cases.
The approval of the application for Quest, announced Monday afternoon by Gov. Kathy Hochul, comes as public health officials have faced growing criticism for what has been called a slow response to the emerging health crisis.
"New York still faces a disproportionate number of monkeypox cases, and we will continue to meet this moment with urgency and aggressive action," Hochul said. "Today's announcement builds on our ongoing monkeypox response efforts to expand testing capacity, secure more vaccines and make resources as widely available as possible. We will continue to do everything in our power to protect New Yorkers, including our most vulnerable communities."
The test by Quest Diagnostics will use samples from people who have clear symptoms of monkeypox, such as rashes or pustules. Specimens can be currently testd at the state's Wadsworth Center lab and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. There are also private labs conducting tests: LabCorp, Mayo Clinic, Aegis Sciences Corporation, Sonic Healthcare, and UR Medicine Lab.
"As we continue to expand monkeypox testing capacity through the additional use of private labs, it's important to know that the State's Wadsworth Center also has available capacity for additional testing," Health Commissioner Mary Bassett said. "But the real challenge with testing is that it involves swabbing lesions, which must be present for the test to assess whether the virus is also present. Without lesions, testing is not currently possible. And we will continue working to make sure providers know when and how to test for monkeypox."
State health officials have also been pointing to efforts to distribute monkeypox vaccines with a focus on communities at this point most likely to be impacted by the virus. That has included the LGBT community in New York, and advocates this summer have urged state officials to take a more aggressive approach in highlighting efforts to deliver and distribute the vaccine.
The Hochul administration has pointed to a relatively low supply of monkeypox vaccine doses being released by the federal government to the state.
But at the same time, the governor's office touted efforts to work with local county health officials to highlight vaccine availability, clinci locations and scheduling. Local health officials who have received a vaccine supply are directly establishing their own appointment processes.