California Calls on Laboratories to Speed Up Test Processing for Most At-Risk Groups


As state hits record number of tests, California asks labs to prioritize testing turnaround for individuals who are most at risk of spreading virus to others

The California Health and Human Services Secretary, Dr. Mark Ghaly, issued the following statement today urging laboratories in California to prioritize testing turnaround for individuals who are most at risk of spreading the virus to others:

“Over the past six months, along with public and private partners, California has worked to increase access to diagnostic testing in response to the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). Together, we increased testing from 2,000 tests per day to 100,000 test per day in just a few months. We did this by: (1) building laboratory capacity within public and commercial laboratories; (2) establishing new specimen collection sites outside the healthcare delivery system; and (3) disrupting the testing supply chain to ensure adequate supplies of viral media and swabs.

“As more states begin to scale their testing capabilities, new constrains are materializing within the supply chain. Simultaneously laboratories are becoming overwhelmed with high numbers of specimens, slowing down processing timelines. These delays will present significant challenges in (1) our ability to care for people in the hospital where testing helps us make appropriate treatment decisions and (2) our ability to appropriately isolate those who are sick in order to box in the virus and cut transmission rates.

“Due to these new limitations, California is recommending that laboratories prioritize the processing of specimens of individuals who are COVID-19 symptomatic and those who are hospitalized or in long-term care facilities, including skilled nursing facilities (e.g., Veterans Homes) and assisted living facilities (e.g., Residential Care Facilities for the Elderly). Additionally, specimens of patients in institutional settings, including prisons and jails, must be prioritized in order to timely implement appropriate interventions to mitigate the spread of the virus within the facility.

“California will continue to work hard to reduce any delays in testing turnaround time and return to our broader scale testing efforts.”


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