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Newsom unveils $25 million COVID-19 testing lab in Valencia

Gov. Gavin Newsom visited the Southland on Friday to unveil a new COVID-19 testing lab in Valencia that will boost California’s testing capacity, reduce turnaround time for results and create hundreds of jobs.

The $25 million facility, at 28545 Livingston Ave., was converted for its new use by diagnostics company PerkinElmer under a contract with the state. It will begin processing tests in November. It’s expected to handle up to 150,000 tests per day by March with a turnaround time of 24 to 48 hours. 

The additional testing capacity will allow California to better serve schools, healthcare providers and communities of color, which are at higher risk of contracting the virus. It comes just as flu season arrives and the need for testing is expected to spike statewide because the symptoms of COVID-19 and the flu are similar.

Figures released Friday, Oct. 30 by the California Department of Public Health show 4,014 new COVID cases, bringing the state’s total to nearly 917,000 cases.

Los Angeles County, one of the hardest-hit areas of the state, reported 26 deaths and 1,296 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday.

700 jobs at full capacity

The lab, housed in Valencia Commerce Center, has created 300 new jobs so far and is expected to employ about 700 workers when it reaches full capacity.

The $25 million facility on Livingston Avenue was built in conjunction with diagnostics company PerkinElmer and will begin processing tests in November. (Photo courtesy of governor’s office)

“Earlier in this pandemic, our ability to test Californians for COVID-19 and get results quickly was hampered by supply chain challenges and overwhelmed laboratories – so we built our own supply chain and our own lab with PerkinElmer,” Newsom told those gathered at Friday’s unveiling.

Cutting-edge technology

The lab will utilize polymerase chain reaction (PCR) diagnostic testing. Sometimes referred to as “molecular photocopying,” the process is a fast and inexpensive technique used to “amplify,” or copy, small segments of DNA. It has proven useful for the detection of bacteria and viruses.

California’s contract with Waltham, Massachusetts-based PerkinElmer includes provisions that enable the company to adopt new technology at a lower price point. The state plans to leverage technologies with a variety of other laboratory partners to ensure testing capabilities are as diverse as possible.

The state announced its partnership with PerkinElmer 10 weeks ago and it took just eight weeks to get the 134,000-square-foot facility up and running.

“We are pleased they chose it,” said Holly Schroeder, president and CEO of the Santa Clarita Valley Economic Development Corp.

Schroeder said the company identified a building in Valencia Commerce Center that already had a significant amount of clean space from a former tenant.

“That helped them get a jump-start,” she said.

Newsom said the new lab is needed to keep pace with California’s COVID-19 situation.

“We recognized a number of months ago that if we continued down the path we were on we simply would not meet the demand, the need and the desire by our epidemiologists and our health partners all across the state of California to provide for the ample, accessibility, quality and equity of our testing protocols,” Newsom said.

He noted that 24 states have experienced record high cases of COVID-19 over the past week.

“This lab is happening at the right time,” Newsom said.

Lower cost

The per-test cost to the state will be $30.78 once the lab reaches full capacity. Those costs will be shared with health insurers and some employers. For context, Medicare and Medicaid reimburse at roughly $100 per test, while the average cost of a COVID-19 test ranges from $150 to $200.

To support the lowest costs to taxpayers, California will enter into a contract for third-party billing services to recoup costs from health insurance companies or other payers.

Newsom toured the lab along with California Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly and Government Operations Secretary Yolanda Richardson.

“When you’re exposed, when you’re concerned — or even when you’re not — having the availability of testing is that step that helps us understand where transmission is across the state,” Ghaly said. “Every county is a little different than the one next door.”

Source: Orange County Register

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