San Diego has made adjustments to coronavirus testing requirements as growing demand for testing is renewing shortages, wait times and delayed results. The County Board of Supervisors last week announced a shortage in test supplies, and said the county will now start prioritizing symptomatic people, healthcare workers, first responders, and essential workers.
Last week, the county averaged more than 8,000 tests per day. Of those tests, 7% returned positive, bringing the 14-day rolling average to 7.2%. Of the 20,000+ confirmed cases, nearly 10% of those testing positive were asymptomatic, according to the county, and losing that ability to identify those patients makes the efforts of containing the spread difficult. Reports indicate local test results are taking anywhere from 24 hours to 10 days.
Following the San Diego announcement, state health officials also announced new guidelines for who gets tested first.
The state will prioritize vulnerable patients and those with symptoms. The state also will be asking medical providers to do more in-office testing, and for health insurance plans to pick up that cost, Dr. Mark Ghaly, health and human services secretary, said in a video conference.
A spokesperson for the California Association of Health Plans said that while it is awaiting more details on the upcoming changes, health plans currently provide coverage for tests deemed medically necessary and ordered by a provider. According to federal guidance, health plans are not required to cover testing for employment purposes or for public health surveillance. Ghaly said the state is working on emergency regulations that would classify testing for essential health workers and for those with possible exposure as medically necessary.
Essential workers without symptoms now fall under the third category. More widespread testing of the general population will occur once testing turnaround time averages less than 48 hours, according to the new guidelines.
“We all know that testing in California is a vital piece of our response, not only to focus on taking care of patients… but also to understand the patterns of transmission across the state,” Ghaly said.