Since we at Makerspace like to know how things work, I found a paper detailing how government approved diagnostic labs actually test patient samples for the 2019-Novel Coronavirus.
In a nutshell, they use real-time PCR (polymerase chain reaction) to amplify two regions of the viral RNA, plus a control sample of human RNA (to verify the amplification worked). The same machine detects if the RNA was actually amplified.
And here is how real-time PCR works:
A real-time polymerase chain reaction (real-time PCR), also known as quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR), is a laboratory technique of molecular biology based on the polymerase chain reaction (PCR). It monitors the amplification of a targeted DNA molecule during the PCR (i.e., in real time), not at its end, as in conventional PCR. Real-time PCR can be used quantitatively (quantitative real-time PCR) and semi-quantitatively (i.e., above/below a certain amount of DNA molecules) (semi-quan...