OHSU coronavirus (COVID-19) response

Health Care , Community
OHSU Emergency
OHSU Emergency
Aerial OHSU Marquam Hill
OHSU’s emergency preparations group has been working to adapt disaster plans in place from previous disease outbreaks. (OHSU/Aaron Bieleck)

As of Friday, March 27, 9 a.m.

OHSU launches in-house COVID-19 testing lab

OHSU’s research community came together to launch an in-house COVID-19 testing lab Tuesday, March 24, and plans to ramp up testing in the coming weeks. Initially, the expected turnaround time for results will be roughly 36 hours.

Researchers established the lab in anticipation of a significant influx of critically ill patients requiring testing. OHSU will use laboratory-developed tests with polymerase chain reaction, in accordance with guidelines by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration. 

The lab is an example of the many collaborations that have been happening at OHSU and in the health care community. In this case, members of the research community rallied to support the clinical community and testing in a drive to combat COVID-19.

Two weeks ago, there was no micro laboratory. It was constructed, stocked, staffed and operational in just 14 days. The process has been powered by a team of clinical and bench providers and scientists inspired to respond to the COVID-19 crisis. That included everything from finding the space to build the lab to finding the reagents and materials necessary for testing.

On one of the last days all staff were allowed on campus, a general call went out for labs to donate any extra TRIzol reagent, a chemical solution commonly used to extract RNA, DNA and proteins from cells that can be used in COVID-19 testing. The response was overwhelming. So, too, was the response for scientists and teams to volunteer their skills. The morning after the call for volunteers went out, 800 people had responded.

The COVID-19 lab is a contribution to preparations for an expected surge in COVID-19 patients, and testing capacity will be important in the continued effort to flatten the curve.

The lab will initially focus on providing testing for critically ill patients at OHSU. As capacity expands, it will enable testing to expand to a broader group of people.

For example, as of this week OHSU has set up a drive-through testing site at the Gordon Farber Recreation Center in Hillsboro for OHSU patients who have been directed by their health care provider to get tested and for first responders with COVID-19 symptoms. OHSU plans to expand testing when more supplies become available.

OHSU gears up for pandemic

As Oregon’s academic health center, OHSU is participating with state and local public health authorities and health systems across the metro area to coordinate a regional response. The goal remains to contain the spread of the virus, known as SARS-CoV-2.

In contrast to what we know about influenza, we do not yet know the severity of this new coronavirus nor do we have a vaccine or effective antiviral medications in hand. Therefore, OHSU activated an emergency operations center that has adapted response plans already in place from previous pandemic influenza outbreaks.

Beginning with the initial reports of the novel coronavirus in January, OHSU has taken the following measures to reduce risk of the virus spreading.

Patient care

Workforce management

Community measures

Ways to help

No home-sewn masks at this time: There has been an outpouring of offers from the public to make masks for OHSU, which is deeply appreciated. OHSU wants to put these offers to the best use possible. However, we are not using home-made masks at this time to ensure staff and patient safety.

Fabric masks are less than ideal for preventing the spread of infection, though there are some promising results if the appropriate materials and patterns are used. OHSU is working hard to source those materials and patterns. If and when we can achieve an acceptable level of infection prevention, we will ask for the public’s help in creating masks. 

Please consult these resources for the most current information on the COVID-19 response:

OHSU Communications
503 494-8231