California has fared well in comparison with some states in the battle against the coronavirus — at 1,440 deaths as of Thursday being a fraction of the 19,453 deaths in New York — but Gov. Gavin Newsom continues to keep Californians under a lockdown order that he said won’t let up until between 60,000 and 80,000 daily tests can be administered.
That’s nearly triple the 25,000 tests the governor recently set as the testing standard he has said was needed to lift the restrictions in the state.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Newsom’s new testing threshold is based on the opinion of Harvard researchers who have said that 152 tests a day for every 100,000 people should be in place to “safely reopen:”
Newsom said the state will add 86 testing sites to the 600 now operating in hospitals, clinics, homeless shelters and pop-up sites. He said the new ones will be added in “testing deserts” — rural areas and poor urban communities that are disproportionately harmed by COVID-19, but where access to testing has been limited.
Nearly all of the sites, 80, will be operated by OptumServe, a Minnesota-based health services company; six will be operated by Verily, the life sciences division of Google’s parent company, Alphabet.
More than half of the existing test sites said in a state survey that their biggest roadblock to expansion is that they lack enough swabs, which are used to collect nasal and throat specimens. Newsom said President Trump has committed to providing 100,000 swabs to California this week, 250,000 swabs next week and more the week after that.
“I don’t want to suggest definitively that even hundreds of thousands, even millions of swabs alone will solve the testing issues,” Newsom said. “It will solve the swab issue.”
The Chronicle reported that Newsom said if labs had adequate testing supplies, the state could conduct as many as 95,000 tests a day. To date, California has tested 465,000 in a state that has a population of more than 39 million.
“That number is still inadequate to meet the needs of all of you, and to meet our expectations as it relates to our capacity to begin to move even further in terms of augmenting and modifying stay-at-home orders,” Newsom said.
Other tests will also be in the mix, according the the Chronicle, including antibody tests to check for immunity to the coronavirus, and serology tests, or blood tests to determine if a person has had the virus.
“Newsom said Abbott, a medical device company that last week introduced an antibody test, has committed to providing 1.5 million of them to 130 facilities in California,” the Chronicle reported.
President Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force, led by Vice President Mike Pence, released four-stage reopening guidelines but are leaving the final decision up to the states’ governors.
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