As U.S. COVID-19 testing lags, Baylor School research scientists step in to help

Staff photo by Troy Stolt / Baylor teacher Dr. Elizabeth Forrester, stands in her lab area in Baylor School on Wednesday, March 18, 2020 in Chattanooga, Tenn. Last Friday Dr. Forrester and her teaching colleague Dr. Dawn Richards were able to confirm that with Baylor's Schools lab equipment, they would be able to run tests to determine whether or not someone has coronavirus.

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Research scientists Dawn Richards and Elizabeth Forrester watched concern grow as a new coronavirus causing pneumonia-like illness emerged in China, then spread to Europe and the United States.

The worry they saw from their students at Baylor School mixed with chatter they began hearing around town. Someone's friend has a cough. A family member developed a fever. But even as the virus reached Chattanooga, those people could not get answers to their burning question: Do I have COVID-19?

Just over a week ago, on March 13, Hamilton County confirmed its first case of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus. As of Saturday, Hamilton County had confirmed eight cases total. But lessons learned from other states and countries suggest that the virus has likely been circulating locally for weeks, with far more cases going undetected than actually reported.