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El Paso partnership with UTEP, TTHSC may add capacity to process 1,000 virus tests a day

EL PASO, Texas --  With El Paso City Council approving a partnership with UTEP and Texas Tech Health Science Center, officials soon expect the wait time for Covid-19 test results to drop tremendously.

"What this will do is expand the physical capacity of that lab and increase the number of machines to do more tests and more assessments every 24 hours," said UTEP President Heather Wilson said.

The El Paso city pathologist is also a pathologist for the Texas Tech Health Science Center, which comes in handy because UTEP is not a medical school.

"Texas Tech's involvement has been critical in that their pathologist oversees the lab, so he will provide that clinical oversight for the site at UTEP as well. We don't teach pathology because we are not a medical school," shared Wilson.

With all of the assets now needed to fix the back log of samples, Dr. Robert Kirken believes the team can process up to 200 tests an hour or an average of 1,000 a day.

Kirken, the dean of UTEP's College of Science, told ABC-7: "If we combine the instruments the city has and we have, that are FDA approved instruments for clinical diagnostics, we will be able to do this quite efficiently. We do not need an army of people to run this type of equipment."

El Paso Mayor Dee Margo is happy with this joint attack on the testing backlog saying, "One of the issues is we have been doing so much testing over the last several weeks that the private labs are backed up. What was initially a three to five day turn around is now over a week to 10 days."

He said the "enhancement of having UTEP" could result in being able to handle "a thousand or more tests a day."

Coronavirus / Coronavirus Video / Education / El Paso / News / Video

Wil Herren

Wil Herren is an ABC-7 reporter who covers both news and sports.

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