Governor Gavin Newsom announced yesterday that the state will soon more than double its coronavirus testing capacity, a move that at least one lawmaker has described as a “game changer” in the state’s response to the pandemic .
The state will partner with Massachusetts-based diagnostics company PerkinElmer, which will allow the state to conduct and process an additional 150,000 tests per day with accelerated test results in 24 to 48 hours.
“We have provisions in the contract to guarantee that turnaround time,” Newsom said.
At 150,000 tests per day, the new contract would reduce the cost per test from $ 150-200 currently to $ 30.
Currently, the state processes just over 100,000 tests per day with an average turnaround time of five to seven days. According to some estimates, like those by scientists at the Harvard Global Health Institute, California would currently need to perform more than 220,000 tests a day to really mitigate the spread of the virus – and many more to suppress it.
“Every day is a precious day in terms of test results,” Newsom said. The longer people wait, these test results are almost useless in helping to stop the spread, he said.
Newsom said the state would aim to put a new lab up and running by November 1, just in time for the peak of the flu season and a possible second wave of coronavirus, when more people are likely to seek testing. .
The deal also means testing will be more affordable, Newsom said. Currently, a diagnostic test for the coronavirus costs between $ 150 and $ 200. That’s an “extraordinary” cost considering the state has performed some 11 million tests, he said. At 150,000 tests per day, the new contract would reduce the cost per test to $ 30.
The goal, the governor said, is to “flex” the state’s “market power” and reduce testing costs, as well as improve access to testing for all.
“This is exactly what the federal government should be doing,” Newsom said.
More and faster testing also means the state can improve contact tracing efforts, a critical step in reopening schools and businesses, said Sen. Richard Pan, a Democrat from Sacramento who joined Newsom via a call.
“Without it, we will not be able to contain the epidemic,” said Pan.
Some county officials, for example, said waiting times of days, sometimes weeks, for test results hamper their investigation and contact tracing efforts. Since last month, some counties have been skipping cases deemed too old.
It also means the state should be better able to do more testing in high-risk communities and populations that have been significantly affected by the virus. Latinos, for example, make up a large portion of essential workers. They also account for 60% of the state’s cases and almost half of all deaths, even though they only make up about 40% of the state’s population.
“If you’ve been in contact with someone infected with COVID, you absolutely need to get tested.”
– sara cody, Santa Clara County Public Health
Newsom’s new plan to test more people comes as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week updated their testing guidelines, which ultimately go in the opposite direction of California.
The CDC’s amended guidelines state that people who have been in close contact with an infected person but are not showing symptoms, do not necessarily need to be tested, unless they are otherwise vulnerable. Previously, the CDC recommended testing for all close contacts of infected people.
Health officials and groups have said the recommendations ignore the role that people’s asymptomatic roles play in spreading the virus, and in California, several health officials have already pushed back.
“I don’t agree with the new CDC guidelines. Period. Period, ”Newsom said in response to a media question. “We will not be influenced by this change.”
In a separate press briefing at the same time, Dr Sara Cody, who heads the Santa Clara County Public Health Department, expressed her anger and astonishment at the new CDC guidelines. “When I first heard about this change in guidelines… I didn’t really believe it because it just sounded weird to me. It undermines our fundamentals of how we control an infectious disease, ”she said.
Like Newsom, Cody has been adamant that the county’s testing recommendations will not change.
“If you’ve been in contact with someone infected with COVID, you absolutely need to take a test,” Cody said.
Journalist Barbara Feder Ostrov contributed to this report. CALmatters.org is a non-profit, non-partisan media company explaining the politics and politics of California.