This veterinary lab is the linchpin in one state’s coronavirus testing approach
by Karen Brulliard/The Washington Post
Akhilesh Ramachandran emailed Oklahoma’s public health laboratory just days after the novel coronavirus hit the state in March. As a manager of a veterinary school diagnostic lab, he knew lots about rapid, high-volume testing for viruses — in animals. He offered his facility as a “backup” for human testing, he said, figuring officials “might say, ‘You guys do 100 samples, and we’ll do the rest.’ ”
But within weeks, the Oklahoma State University lab — which typically tests for diseases such as rabies in dogs and respiratory ailments in Oklahoma’s large cattle industry — was running more human coronavirus tests than any other lab in the state. It had recruited a raft of volunteers and hired additional staff to work until 3 a.m. processing thousands of tests a week — nearly a quarter of the state total, and four times more than the decaying state public health lab. Lab personnel, all animal specialists, speak of their new task as a public service mission.
“Being the lab that is doing the most testing has made the responsibility so much higher on our shoulders,” said Ramachandran, a veterinarian who said his biggest concern is that one of his staff members will fall ill with the virus, perhaps forcing ...read more: