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San Diego County restricting COVID-19 testing

Posted at 8:32 PM, Jul 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-13 23:43:05-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - The County of San Diego is changing who can get a COVID-19 test at county sites.

Officials said Monday that going forward, the county is focusing coronavirus testing efforts for priority groups, including those with symptoms.

"For new appointments being made, those will be focused on individuals who are symptomatic or individuals who are asymptomatic that fit into some of our priority groups like healthcare workers, first responders, those with chronic or underlying health conditions and those living in long-term care facilities," said County of San Diego Supervisor Nathan Fletcher.

Fletcher said the county has more sick people and more positive cases, which means there's a greater demand on the testing system.

He explained that challenge is being compounded by a global supply chain shortage with testing supplies and components.

"By taking this approach to reprioritize our focus on symptomatic folks and asymptomatic folks who are in the settings I just described we might see a reduction in the number of tests being done, but we do hope to see an increase in the speed in which we're able to turn around those tests," Fletcher said.

Testing supply issues are not just a local problem. On Monday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom was asked about supply issues and test result turnaround times.

"It's unacceptable in this nation and in this state that we are not in a position to be doing even larger scale testing that all of us have been very, very aggressively promoting and trying to manifest," Newsom said, adding that the state is also starting to see delays in testing results.

Harvard researchers have said the timing of testing results is crucial.

"If it takes over a week for the result to come back, mathematically it becomes challenging for testing and contract tracing alone to be adequate," Dr. Thomas Tsai, assistant professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and a surgeon at Brigham and Women's Hospital.

Harvard researchers found most states still fall short when it comes to testing.

Here in California, the state Department of Public Health reports more than 5 million tests have been conducted across the state.

On a call with reporters last week, Tsai said California is testing a very high number of people, but relative to its population, it's falling short of its target for suppressing COVID-19.

"What happened in California is, as the cases have increased, the testing has increased in proportion but hasn't increased to a level where testing has outpaced the growth of cases and the ability to contact trace has actually gotten ahead of the infection and gotten control of it," he said.

On Monday, San Diego County officials announced a partnership with local company Helix to provide up to 2,000 tests a day.

County officials say they've received 7,500 tests and those are already being used at two sites.

Another 10,000 will be sent tomorrow and they expect within a week that every site will be using them.

That will ease some of the burden, but won’t cure the overall problem.