COVID-19 cases are spiking across California, creating shortages in essential testing supplies. Though the state issued new guidance Tuesday regarding COVID-19 testing, we want to make clear that most physician practices, health centers and pharmacies simply do not have the supplies on hand to meet the current need for COVID-19 testing. Before anyone shows up to one of these facilities expecting a COVID-19 test, they should call ahead to ensure that the practice, pharmacy or health center is able to accommodate the testing request. As California Health and Human Services Secretary Ghaly said Tuesday, the new surge in COVID-19 cases has set California back, requiring health care workers to once again prioritize testing for those who are suffering symptoms, including fever, shortness of breath and fatigue.
Adequate testing is a key component to getting this pandemic under control and reopening our state. Providing COVID-19 tests through physician offices, pharmacies and health centers can ensure more coordinated patient care, but this care requires access to COVID-19 testing materials that continue to be in short supply. The lack of testing supplies is due in part to the state’s focus on ramping up testing capacity at large-scale private testing sites instead of through existing community health care providers.
Physicians, community health centers and pharmacists cannot collect samples or process them without adequate supplies—including PPE, test kits, and reagents—which they currently do not have. Providers must also be adequately reimbursed for collecting test samples and we look forward to working with the California Department of Managed Health Care on its new regulations on testing reimbursement. Unfortunately, California’s COVID-19 case surge and broken testing supply chain is making it impossible to conduct the testing we need to meet these important goals.
COVID-19 is here for the foreseeable future and California desperately needs to build a supply chain that will ensure California physicians, pharmacists and other health care providers have the supplies they need to provide California residents with the tests necessary to suppress this growing pandemic. We urge the Governor to commit state resources to immediately expand the supply of COVID-19 testing materials available to physicians, pharmacies and community health centers.