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Microbiologists Alan Finn and Valarie Devlin peered at rows of possible coronavirus specimens in vials at the state Department of Health lab in Colchester.
Their protective gear made them appear like unidentifiable contours of people: clad in brightly colored smocks and gowns, gloves and masks, illuminated by the lab’s glaring light. Devlin transferred a set of vials from the fridge; a few feet away, Finn extracted the RNA from another set of samples to test for the virus.
In one instance Wednesday, they apparently found a case — that evening, the Department of Health announced results showed the state’s second presumed positive test.
As the virus has spread, the state’s lab is scaling up. The facility, which is responsible for all the state’s testing, is doubling its testing staff from the usual six employees, adding six of its microbiologists to help with work. Administrators and lab staff are also working longer hours, according to acting lab director Helen Reid.
By Thursday, the state had tested 99 patients. Two of those tests had come back positive — one in Chittenden County and one in Bennington County. Both patients are hospitalized.