New York City has opened a new coronavirus testing laboratory in Manhattan with the goal of processing around 20,000 diagnostic tests per day by November, which would represent a significant ramp up in testing capacity and turnaround time as the city continues to restart its economy.

Under the plan, which was officially announced in a City Hall press release Thursday, the Pandemic Response Lab will process COVID-19 test samples from the city's public hospitals and generate results within 24-48 hours. The facility is located at the Alexandria Center for Life Science, a complex at East 29th Street near First Avenue developed roughly a decade ago with the help of government subsidies to grow the city's bioscience industry.

The lab, which can currently run 3,000 tests a day, utilizes technology licensed from NYU Langone Health and Opentrons, a robotics company in Brooklyn focused on life sciences.

Testing capacity should rise to 10,000 tests a day by next week, according to a spokesperson for Opentrons. The company's technology will enable lab technicians to rely on three robotic arms to move trays, each holding about 380 samples, between different testing stations.

Opentrons has maintained it can perform 30,000 daily tests by November, 10,000 more than the city's projection. Each test will cost $28. Major diagnostic labs charge about $100 per test.

The highest number of tests the city has performed in one day has been 44,200 on August 31st, according to the city's coronavirus data website.

Photo courtesy of Opentrons

The lab will perform pooling, a process that expedites testing by combining samples and clear multiple people at a time.

In a statement, Mayor Bill de Blasio touted the new lab as building "on our city’s reputation as a world leader in making testing available to everyone."

The initiative arose after City Hall and the city's Economic Development Corporation convened a group of experts that included scientists from Columbia and Rockefeller universities as well as Memorial Sloan Kettering and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr. Ian Lipkin, a renowned epidemiologist from the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia, told Gothamist that the group has been meeting about once a week since April.

"This is clearly the cornerstone," Lipkin said in a phone interview on Thursday.

One of the principal goals, he explained, was to help bring the city back to life by giving returning workers a sense of security. He said he believed the city will open more testing facilities in the future. "I don't believe it's going to be the last," he said.

For months, the city has struggled with delays in testing due to increased national demand that has strained national testing labs like Quest Diagnostics. New Yorkers reported delays as long as two to three weeks, durations which negated the validity of the tests. The city has since tried to open rapid testing sites and perform more testing locally. The mayor's office said that over 80% of tests currently come back within 72 hours or less.

The expansion in testing comes as the city enters a critical new phase in the ongoing public health crisis. Public schools are set to reopen later this month, more businesses are asking employees to return to the office, and restaurants will be allowed to offer indoor dining beginning on September 30th. Public health experts have expressed concern that all of these activities, along with cooler temperatures pushing more people indoors, will bring on a second wave of the pandemic.

In Europe, there are already signs that a second wave or surge is in already effect.

On top of that, health officials are worried about the impending flu season, although there is some evidence that the measures used to reduce the spread of COVID-19 will significantly dampen its impact.

New York City's positive testing rate is currently less than 1%. It has stayed below 2% for two months. On Wednesday, Governor Andrew Cuomo said that New York's reopening could safely continue as long as the statewide positive testing rate did not surpass 1%, an ambitious benchmark but one that may be hard to consistently maintain.

According to the latest data, the state's positivity rate was just shy of 1%, that of .98%.

"It's not like we have a margin of error here," Cuomo said. "We are right up against it and that's the smart calibration on managing COVID."