California governor issues order allowing state to commandeer hotels for coronavirus patients

Originally published at:


I was very surprised to see this bit:

“The order also allows trained laboratory personnel to perform COVID-19 tests, which are ordinarily completed only by microbiologists.”

It was my understanding that almost anything that has been well characterized enough to have test kit and protocol was not generally left to microbiologists. Those are pretty scarce by the standards of diagnostic lab throughput, expensive compared to techs; and not necessarily any better at rigorously following directions and exercising the appropriate quality control procedures.

Also, at least for the CDC test kit, page 24 mentions that only people who have been trained by an approved instructor on the procedure should perform it; but doesn’t otherwise discuss required qualifications; and the procedure certainly looks like something that would benefit from an experienced hand(getting PCR to amplify something, now that the principles and reagents have been worked out, is surprisingly easy; getting it to amplify the correct something is not for the sloppy or careless); but doesn’t look like it has any steps where you’d need a microbiologist rather than a suitably competent lab tech.

Am I misjudging the difficulty of the test? Ignorant of a rule not included in the documentation I checked? Is California using a different technique?


Should they also be able to commandeer Airbnb locations?


If California is using the Stanford-derived test, it is based on the WHO test. From what I’ve read in, it’s not so much the rtPCR test, it’s the extraction side of the method that’s difficult. If any RNase gets into the sample, it’s trash. So I could see some sensitivity to techs running the test until it’s really well defined.


“Plenty of room at the Hotel California…”


Good. When the crisis ends, they need to start commandeering 20% of all new home construction for low income families, and crack down on the Air BnB shell game where people buy cheap properties that would normally be rented to the working class and then flip them into hotels that can skip all the requirements real hotels must meet.


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