TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - The Smith County Commissioners Court will decide Tuesday on expanding and renovating the Public Health Lab of East Texas (PHLET lab), a part of UT Health Science Center at Tyler. This is where they analyze and detect certain biological agents that the CDC considers to be bioterror threats. This is also where some of East Texas COVID-19 samples are sent for testing.
The Responsible Official of the PHLET lab, Dr. Jeffrey Levin, says, “when the pandemic became a threat, when it was clear this was something that could become a worldwide event, we began working with the CDC to prepare ourselves to do that kind of testing.”
The PHLET lab is a decade old and the high quantity of test samples coming to them isn’t slowing down Dr. Levin says, “as we do more testing and the equipment gets older, we have to ensure that we upgrade the equipment and the ventilation system in order to ensure all of the safety mechanisms are operating properly.”
Right now the PHLET lab can run tests on about 200 COVID-19 samples per week. If the Smith County Commissioners vote to expand the lab and upgrade equipment, County Judge Nathaniel Moran hopes to get that number to 250 a day. He says, “we’re gonna make it where it’s doing 5 times as many as it is currently doing and that’s a significant enhancement for the PHLET lab.”
Judge Moran says they already have the green light from the state to use the CARES Act funds for updating the PHLET lab. He said it was important to find something to invest in that will be a long-lasting advantage to the health of E Texas, “we’re hopeful we can find other projects like this where there’s a continuing benefit to the community and the community’s public health, not just a one time expense.”
If this does pass tomorrow in court, Judge Moran says they’re working to make sure tests can still be processed and there isn’t an interruption to workflow.