UPDATE, THURSDAY: California Public Health today confirmed cases to date of 683,529, up 4,430 over Wednesday, with 12,550 deaths, up 143 over yesterday. Both numbers are a slight downtrend from Wednesday.
EARLIER: California Governor Gavin Newsom announced what he called “a new partnership” in coronavirus testing. He said he was taking the action in anticipation of the stress the flu season will put on the testing system.
“We have averaged roughly 100,000 tests in the state,” said Newsom. Average turnaround time for results is “anywhere from 5 up to 7 days after the test.” Newsom acknowledged that
Developing a partnership with PerkinElmer to “build out a new Laboratory in California with full supply chain.” Newsom said the deal will provide much more reliability ad stability.
The idea is “to bring down costs for everybody…to get back tests in a timely manner,” said the governor.
“California is using its market power to combat global supply chain challenges and protect Californians in the fight against COVID-19. Supply chains across the country have slowed as demand for COVID-19 tests has increased and flu season will only exacerbate the problem,” said Newsom.
“This is exactly what the federal government should be doing,” said the governor in order to “drive down costs across the spectrum,” from Medicaid to MediCare to private insurance and labs.
Currently, coronavirus tests cost $150-$250. The state has conducted 10.8 million of them. “You can do the math,” he said.
Will provide an additional 150,000 tests a day. “This is additive,” he said, with respect to the current daily total.
“We are demanding tests back in 24 hours, at most 48 hours.”
That speed will help the state make decisions about the possibilities of reopening schools and reopening businesses. State Senator Richard Pan, chair of the Senate Health Committee, said the testing was needed in order to do effective contact tracing and prevent further outbreaks.
New tests will range from $47.99 to $30.78, depending on the volume of tests. That’s at least 1/3 of the current low of $150.
Newsom said the state had “kicked the proverbial tire” in terms of other providers, but landed on PerkinElmer because they could make guarantees about production.
The governor later said in a statement that, “The goal is to stand up a laboratory facility and begin processing tens of thousands of additional tests by November 1 and run at full capacity by no later than March 1, 2021.”
In previous flu pandemics — 1918, for instance — November and December were the deadliest months.
While the surge in testing is vital in terms of crafting a response to the pandemic in a state of 40 million, it remains to be seen how much of the increased testing capacity will actually be used by Californians. Setting aside recent lab difficulties created by wildfires, the 14-day average of daily total tests peaked on July 25, and has fallen slightly since then.
Nationally, testing numbers have fallen precipitously in the past few weeks.
The Centers for Disease Control on Wednesday morning issued new guidance saying people who show no symptoms of the virus do not need to be tested, even if they have been in close contact with an infected person. The guidance was a sharp departure from previous guidance suggesting that anyone potentially exposed get tested.
Adm. Brett Giroir, the nation’s virus testing coordinator, denied media reports that the change was made in response to pressure from the White House. President Donald Trump has repeatedly suggested that the only reason the country has such a high number of virus cases — which has been used by political opponents to criticize his handling of the pandemic — is the large amount of testing. He has suggested that limiting testing would result in lower numbers.
Giroir told reporters the CDC’s change was “based on the best evidence to provide people guidance about who should be tested,” saying the goal is to not to reduce testing, but to do more “appropriate” testing.
Newsom said flat-out at his press conference, “I do not agree with the new CDC guidance. Full stop.”
On Tuesday, the Department of Public Health issued a press release and began rolling out new guidance for in-person child supervision and limited instruction, targeted support services, and facilitation of distance learning in small group environments. The guidance is meant to help those programs to understand the required health and safety practices needed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in their settings.
Much of what’s new centers around learning “cohorts,” which are described as “a stable group of no more than 14 children or youth and no more than two supervising adults in a supervised environment in which supervising adults and children stay together for all activities — e.g., meals, recreation, etc. — and avoid contact with people outside of their group in the setting.” The guidance recommends groups smaller than 14 whenever possible.
The governor said his full set of revised guidelines would be announced on Friday.
City News Service contributed to this report.
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