Quest will begin receiving and testing specimens on Monday, March 9. The test will use respiratory specimens collected from hospitals and physicians, according to the company. Quest Diagnostics service centers do not collect respiratory specimens on suspected COVID-19 cases. Patients who have the virus or suspect they may be infected should consult with a physician on the best way to provide Quest with a specimen, the company said.
"In times of national health crises, quality laboratory testing is absolutely critical to mobilizing effective public health response," Quest CEO Steve Rusckowski said. "We applaud the FDA for providing the flexibility for innovative, quality lab developed tests to be brought to patients and providers quickly to advance effective response to the coronavirus outbreak."
Shares of the NYSE-listed company were up slightly on the news.
U.S. officials are trying to ramp up capacity to test more people as cases of the deadly virus continue to rise. Last weekend, the Food and Drug Administration said it would allow some labs to start using tests they have developed and validated on their own prior to federal review, clearing the way for local authorities to start testing and getting results within hours.
Health officials have reported at least 129 confirmed COVID-19 cases and at least 11 deaths nationwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state health officials.
The CDC sent test kits earlier in the outbreak to public health labs around the country, but those kits were problematic and potentially inaccurate, CDC officials have since said. Because local clinicians can't depend on the test kits, some have had to ship samples to a laboratory with the ability to run the tests, delaying the process of diagnosis and treatment.
— CNBC's William Feuer contributed to this report.