Channel 2 gets exclusive look inside lab performing thousands of COVID-19 tests a day

By: Justin Wilfon, WSB-TV
Updated: September 10, 2020 – 11:13 PM

NORTH FULTON COUNTY, Ga. — For the first time, Channel 2 Action News is getting an inside look at a lab on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19.

Ipsum Diagnostics lab in north Fulton County processes thousands of coronavirus tests every day.

Channel 2′s Justin Wilfon went inside the lab on Thursday, where technicians are working around the clock to get people their results.

Wilfon was only able to go in after testing negative. So he started his journey like the millions of Georgians across the state — getting a test.

Some 24 hours later, he and his photojournalist were allowed inside the lab, where they found themselves surrounded by hundreds of coronavirus test samples.

The samples that arrive at Ipsum Diagnostics come from around the state and country.

The lab processes between 5,000 and 10,000 coronavirus tests each day, making it one of the busiest in the state.

“Surprisingly, given the number of samples that we are processing every day, it’s actually very quiet,” lab manager Leah Roberts told Wilfon.

Lab technicians are working around the clock at Ipsum Diagnostics, with people working 24 hours a day, seven days a week to process test results.

“We recognize that every single test we do has an impact not only on the individual, but their family, their friends, colleagues at work,” said Dr. Steve Marlow, Ipsum’s chief medical officer.

After the lab receives the samples, each patient’s sample goes through two steps of purification.

“What we get is a sample that contains a lot of parts that we don’t necessarily want because we want to focus in on one single target, which is the COVID-19/SARS target,” Roberts said.

After cleaning the samples, the lab techs load them in a machine for testing.

“How long is the sample in this machine?” Wilfon asked Roberts.

“The run time on this is an hour and 15 minutes,” Roberts said.

“How many patient samples are in there at one time?” Wilfon asked Roberts.

“It’s about 366 patients at one time,” Roberts said.

The machine documents the results, and then the lab notifies patients.

It’s a long but rewarding day’s work for the lab techs on the front lines of a pandemic.

“I feel phenomenal. I think everyone here — all of the employees — everyone here feel absolutely amazing to do the bulk of everyone’s testing during this pandemic,” Roberts said.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Ipsum Diagnostics tested bacteria from open wounds and fungus from underneath toenails.

Since the start of the pandemic, it had to bulk up its staff to handle all the tests.

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