California doctor among first in US to offer rapid blood testing as COVID-19 cases in region spike

ByTony Cabrera and staff KABC logo
Friday, March 27, 2020
OC doctor among first in US to offer COVID-19 rapid blood test
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A Garden Grove doctor is one of the first in the nation to begin using a rapid blood test to detect coronavirus.

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- As hospitals in California prepare for a potential surge in COVID-19 patients, one doctor is among the first in the nation to begin using a rapid blood test to detect the virus.

Dr. Michael Dao of Dao Medical Group described a new rapid blood test for COVID-19 that is widely used in Asia.

"You put a drop of blood in it and some solution, and you wait for the line. In about five, 10 minutes you wait for the line," he said.

Dao comes from one of the biggest biotech companies in South Korea, but similar tests are starting to crop up in the United States.

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However, the tests haven't been reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration. Testing kits approved by the FDA analyze a specimen taken by a swab. The FDA approved polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, testing kits, which can detect minute amounts of the virus in a specimen, which is taken from a patient. The OC Health Care Agency and commercial labs use PCR testing kits.

Dao said rapid blood tests aren't for everyone, mainly for those who have mild to no symptoms at all.

"These people who think they've been exposed to it and we can test these people to see if it's positive or negative," Dao said.

He warns it can result in a false positive, and recommends people get tested again in a week or so.

Meanwhile, as testing ramps up, hospitals are preparing for more patients. An annex tent has been established outside Mission Hospital.

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"We didn't need it quite yet. We are using it, but we didn't absolutely need it just yet and it's good to find out the bugs in the system and be ready for when the surge happens," Dr. Jim Keany said.

Keany recently arrived back from the Marine Corps Air Station in San Diego, where he helped treat patients from the Princess Cruise ship that docked in Oakland earlier this month. He said canceling all elective procedures and ramping up telehealth appointments is helping reduce the number of patients in beds or at the hospital.

"Overall, our census is down, which is a good thing. We've told people to stay away and they've actually listened," Keany said.

He added that FaceTime is helping hospitals in a number of ways.

The basic technology that many people use on a daily basis allows a doctor or nurse in the hospital to be able to communicate through FaceTime with a patient in the annex tent.

"We're actually putting telehealth devices in the patient room, so physicians can reduce the use of PPE and be able to talk to the patient without having to gown up and walk in," Keany said.

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City News Service contributed to this report.