Birmingham-based Assurance Scientific Laboratories was one of the first commercial labs in the United States to receive FDA clearance to test for COVID-19.
"In early January, when we first learned that the virus was circulating in Wuhan, China, we began to talk about developing an assay for it," says Mary Beth Minyard, Director of Microbiology for Assurance Labs. "At the time, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) was the only site in the United States doing testing. We immediately ordered the CDC test and started validation. When it became acceptable for other labs to begin testing, we reached out to the FDA. The FDA released what it termed 'emergency use authorization.' We had to jump through hoops for the FDA to allow the testing."
The Church of Highlands opened a drive-through testing location using the Assurance Scientific test. Although that location is now closed, Assurance is continuing to test in its laboratory. "We are still testing samples sent to us from our physician clients, as well as hospitals throughout the state that are operating drive-through Covid-19 testing," Minyard says. "At this time (March 25), we are running more Covid-19 tests than any other laboratory in Alabama.
"The numbers of infected people will continue to increase because until you start testing, you don't know the actual infection rate. I've seen patients of all ages who have tested positive, and some of them are coming out of emergency rooms, nursing homes and pediatric clinics."
Minyard points out that not everyone needs to be tested, because testing supplies currently are limited nationwide. "If you wake up with a fever, contact your health provider and ask for guidance. If needed, he will probably send you to our screening site," she says. "Providers send us paperwork via the internet, and we are working day and night to keep up with the information."
Southern Research Institute in Birmingham is working with Assurance Scientific Laboratories to provide inactivated virus for validation purposes, and their partnership has helped the testing process move faster.
"Early on, I asked them for inactivated virus because, although the CDC was able to release some of the
virus for validation, they only sent it to the state lab," Minyard says. "Southern Research was a great help. We also were able to move quickly, because Assurance Scientific has a strong knowledge base. We have expertise, and we are nimble. Being a private lab, we are able to move rapidly. We have a strong, dedicated team, and our knowledge base runs deep. We will continue to evaluate our processes to ensure our testing remains accurate for every person as we fight against this virus."
On March 23, UAB opened a drive-through testing location at the corner of University Boulevard and 22nd Street South in downtown Birmingham. Call 205-975-1881 to schedule appointments.
Birmingham Area Test Sites
Urgent Care for Children- Trussville
117 North Chalkville Road, Trussville, AL 35173
Trussville Urgent Care
1960 Gadsden Highway, Trussville, 35235
Main Street Family Care
2211 Moody Parkway, Moody, AL 35004
5720 First Avenue North, Woodlawn, AL
Downtown COVID-19 Testing Site, UAB
Corner of University Blvd. and 22nd St. South, Birmingham
Cahaba Medical Care
1308 Tuscaloosa Avenue, Birmingham, AL
Urgent Care for Children - Vestavia
520 Montgomery Highway, Vestavia, AL 35216
Urgent Care for Children - Birmingham
500 Cahaba Park Circle, Suite 100, Birmingham, AL 35242
Ross Bridge Medical Center
3635 Market Street, Hoover, AL 35226
Urgent Care for Children - Tuscaloosa
4700 Rice Mine Road Northeast
DCH Regional Medical Center
809 University Blvd E, Tuscaloosa, AL 35402
Cullman Regional Screening Site
1958 Alabama Highway 157
For a continually updated list of all testing sites throughout Alabama, visit https://www.alabamapublichealth.gov/index.html Click the main coronavirus link. Or go directly to the Alabama COVID-19 Data and Surveillance Dashboard at https://alpublichealth.maps.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/6d2771faa9da4a2786a509d82c8cf0f7