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Davis Medical Center scientists on front line of COVID battle

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ELKINS, W.Va. – By now, most people are used to the precautions we take around the country for COVID-19, like face masks, shields, and in the medical field, gowns, gloves and more. But for the clinical laboratory scientists at Davis Medical Center, it’s a different story: they’re the ones who often find themselves with the virus literally in their hands.

“Actually handling it when we were doing validations, having really hot samples, it kind of brings it real. You hear stuff on the news all the time and people are like, oh, this is out there, but until you actually hold it in your hands, you’re like, mmm, I have it. I mean, I don’t personally have it, but I’m holding it, and it makes you think,” said Elizabeth Thorne, technical supervisor of the hospital’s microbiology lab.

Changing procedures in the lab was a challenge on its own, since early on, no one was sure exactly how the virus was spreading, and lab staff had to be sure they were taking the right precautions.

“It is, and it’s such a new thing. Especially in the beginning it was very nerve-wracking because were weren’t sure how it was spread, if it was spread through the blood so we had to be more careful with samples that we did have. Our time in the lab has changed a little bit,” said lab Medical Director Sarah Kallas.

Despite the many questions about when a vaccine will come or how much longer we’ll have to deal with community spread, lab specialists there said they’ll still keep going to see an end sooner than later.

“Everybody in the world was scared, they didn’t know what to expect. Now we have tackled the monster and we realized that everything’s going to be OK,” Thorne said.

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