The City of Binghamton has used federal COVID-19 relief money to purchase a machine and testing kits that make it possible to get same-day results. 

The technology, made by an Ithaca-based company called Rheonix, was purchased by the city, for UHS. The tests will be processed in the UHS lab. 

Mayor Rich David announced this partnership on Thursday morning, saying the City of Binghamton is the first municipality in the country to go into a partnership like this. 

The purchase includes the Rheonix COVID-19 MDx Assay and the Rheonix Encompass MDx Workstation. Essentially, it's 700 test kits and the machine to process them. The total cost for the city is $55,100, which David says will be reimbursed with the CARES Act COVID-19 federal relief package. 

Through the partnership with UHS, priority will be given to city first responders city staff, UHS patients, and healthcare workers. UHS plans to purchase a second workstation from Rheonix, further upping testing capacity. With those two machines, UHS says they could process 1,400 tests a week. 

David says this technology will help the region increase their testing capacity, something Governor Cuomo has said is a key component in the decision to reopen regions. He says Broome County and most of the Southern Tier hasn't met Cuomo's requirements for reopening when it comes to the amount of testing needed. 

"This particular aspect of the governor's criteria, we have been lagging on," says David, "This will help fill that gap, which will allow our region to be able to reopen."

As of May 6th, 3,485 people have been tested for the virus in Broome County, according to the county's website. 

Rheonix was given emergency authorization by the FDA to put the technology on the market on April 29th. Rheonix specializes in molecular testing. A spokesperson explains that the technology works in the same way, but need to be adjusted to detect specific molecules. 

"They all work more or less the same way on an instrument. We detect molecular biological targets in a sample," says Brooke Schwartz, Vice President of Strategy and Marketing at Rheonix, "So, we said, 'we know what the targets are, we can detect them with our method.'"

Schwartz says the testing is fully automated. The swabs are taken, placed in the machine, and the start button is pressed. The machine processes 22 samples at a time.

The results from the Rheonix machine are ready the same day, whereas right now, most test samples are sent out to labs, a process that takes 5 to 7 days to get results back. Inpatients in hospitals have their samples sent to a state lab in Albany, which gets the results back in a minimum of two days. Hospitals say the reason for inpatients getting their tests back sooner is because of the amount of PPE needed to deal with potential COVID cases. If they know the individual is negative for coronavirus, they can save their N95 masks to be used around patients who are positive. 

"They had to send them to a central lab previously, so they didn't get them back for 2 or 3 days and that's just an unacceptable wait time for the types of decisions that need to be made," says Schwartz.

Currently, the Rheonix machines are being used in hospitals in Tompkins County and Syracuse. The company says they've had to hire more workers in their manufacturing facility and add a line to up production and meet the current demand.