Mayor Sandy Stimpson announced on Tuesday a new opportunity for the city to receive up to 1,000 coronavirus test kits from an out-of-town laboratory by the end of the week.
Stimpson said a former Mobile resident who works at a lab elsewhere has told administration officials the kits could be ready for hospitals very soon. He did not name the lab in question.
Asked by reporters, Stimpson indicated the tests could also be used at testing sites the city has set up at Ladd-Peebles Stadium and the Grounds but hospitals would be the first priority.
“We are testing more people today,” he said. “I believe more kits could be available by the end of this week and into next week.”
State data also indicates that there’s been an increase in testing locally and across Alabama. According to the Alabama Department of Public Health, 1,832 tests had been conducted since the state began testing as of yesterday but has added another 489 over the last 24 hours.
Although the new tests would be coming from out of town and would have to be transported back in order to get results, Stimpson said the turn-around time is expected to be shorter — anywhere between 16 hours and 18 hours, as the results wouldn’t have to be mailed back.
“Their system is connected to hospitals so doctors can look up the results and the turn-around time is much quicker,” he said.
Although he backed away from any definite timeline at a press conference Monday, Stimpson again said Brad Pitts of Synergy Laboratories in Mobile was hopeful to have as many as 10,000 test kits ready by April 1. The city announced a deal for test kits with Synergy last week, but the lab is still waiting on its suppliers in order to receive necessary components.
“They’re still waiting for the manufacturer to fulfill their part of the deal,” Stimpson said. “They’re still hopeful that on April 1 they will be close to being in business.”
Currently, the state is dealing with 217 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with more announcements expected. There are five confirmed cases in Mobile County. All four of the city’s hospitals and two clinics are currently testing for the virus, according to Stimpson.
Stimpson also reiterated his support for keeping businesses open, despite calls for Alabama to follow other states in issuing a shelter in place health order to slow the rate of COVID-19 transmissions in the community. While Stimpson says the public’s health and safety is a priority, he also said the impact on the local economy and job market has to be factored in as well.
“It’s very easy for the government to create a situation where you shut a business down, but the government cannot start a business back up — it’s got to be up to an individual who’s willing to take a risk,” Stimpson said. “As we fight to make sure people stay healthy, we can’t forget that part of their health is their employment, unless you’re retired.”
Seeming to acknowledge online backlash he’s received for his support of keeping cities open, Stimpson thanked the public for input his office has received. He then added that, “people may be better walking around the block than sitting down watching TV all day long.”
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