Photo: Marcio Jose Sanchez, AP
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – Typical time to perform tests for coronavirus in California has dropped to less than two days, state health officials said Thursday, allowing effective isolation and quarantine of those infected to limit the spread.
The test results are now available from laboratories within an average of 1.3 days, which is less than the five to seven working days that employees often reported last month.
“In order for this transmission to really stop, it has to happen in a timely manner,” said Dr. Erica Pan, acting. state health officer. “It’s a huge step forward.”
Two-thirds of test results now return within a day and 88% within two days, Pan said. The one-day average has improved by 13% since last week and is lower than the national average of nearly four days in early August.
The improvement is coming as the state plans to significantly increase tests this fall. The goal is more than doubling the average from nearly 104,000 tests a day to $ 250,000 by March under a $ 1.4 billion contract announced last month with a Massachusetts company.
Significant improvements in capacity and turnover will allow the state to soon begin what are commonly called surveillance tests, Pan said. The aim is to improve the tests so that they are aimed at the right people and allow health professionals to better predict the traces of the disease.
She said government officials would soon issue new guidelines for the testing.
The rate of infections in California has been steadily declining for weeks and has now reached 3.5% in the last seven days. Hospitalizations and intensive care are also declining, with 1,040 people in the intensive care units being low, not seen near the onset of the pandemic.
137 deaths were reported on Wednesday, with California on the verge of 14,000 since the outbreak, the third largest in the country. But fewer cases of intensive care should reduce mortality in the coming weeks.
The state’s new four-tier system, which allows counties to reopen businesses and expand their activities, is based on reducing the incidence of infections and cases. Counties are punished if they do not test enough people.
This is happening in Riverside County, and officials there have called for more than 2.2 million residents to be tested. The county can test 4,000 people a day, but only half of the available slots are filled. This causes the state to adjust the percentage of its cases to a higher level, which makes it difficult to move to a lower level.
“We have made a lot of progress in slowing the spread of the disease and we want residents to know that more tests will help us continue to disrupt the spread of the virus,” said Kim Saruvatari, the county’s director of public health. “We need to take our tests again – both to isolate the sick and to safely open more parts of our community.”
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms such as fever and cough. For some, especially the elderly and people with pre-existing health problems, this can cause more serious illnesses, including pneumonia and death. Most people recover.