SAN LUIS OBISPO — San Luis Obispo County is now producing faster COVID-19 test results for more people in high-risk situations.

The County Public Health Laboratory recently began running COVID-19 test samples through a device called the Panther, which allows public health microbiologists at the laboratory to now test up to 300 samples per day.

“Increasing our testing capacity in SLO County helps all of us,” said Dr. Penny Borenstein, the County Health Officer. “One of the State’s metrics for staying open involves testing. At the same time, increased testing capacity also supports our contact tracing efforts, which we’ve recently expanded to meet our community’s growing needs.”

The lab prioritizes testing from time-sensitive and higher-risk situations, including health care workers and public health contact investigations. Fast results in these cases can help protect more people from being exposed to COVID-19 and can help connect vulnerable patients with appropriate care. The County also recently expanded its contact tracing team to meet the increased need.

The County Public Health Laboratory began using the Panther to test for COVID-19 on June 12, when materials became available and has since used it to test 786 samples.

Laboratory Director Dr. James Beebe called the Panther a “workhorse.” He said public health microbiologists only recently began using the Panther to test for COVID-19, but they use the tool daily in the diagnosis of other communicable diseases.

For more information on testing, visit www.emergencyslo.org/testing. For updates on COVID- 19 in SLO County, visit ReadySLO.org. A staffed phone assistance center at 805-543-2444 is available Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to assist with questions related to COVID-19.

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