California working to diminish backlog of COVID-19 test results, health officials say

California has seen a continuous increase in coronavirus cases over the last several weeks.
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- As California's coronavirus cases continue to surge, state health officials said that they're ramping up their testing efforts to reach more Californians in need and to reduce the backlog of COVID-19 test results.

During a briefing on Tuesday, the State Secretary of Health and Human Services, Dr. Mark Ghaly, said new guidance for testing would be released to help mitigate the challenges laboratories face to get test results back to patients promptly.

The guidance would tell health officials which tests should be prioritized. Ghaly said health officials should focus on getting tests processed immediately for those with symptoms and those who are most at risk of contracting the virus and transmitting it, like essential workers who work in congregated areas or hospital patients.

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Dr. Ghaly said the state health department is also calling on health care practices to work with the state to bring COVID-19 testing to their patients to help reduce the demand at other testing clinics.

He added that state health officials are also working with universities to bring test processing their labs to help ease the stress on county labs.

The secretary said an emergency regulation would also be issued to help ensure reimbursement for all COVID-19 testing is covered by the state, to help meet demand.

California has reported a 14-day average of executing a little more than 105,000 coronavirus tests per day.

Dr. Ghaly said that while the state has already met its initial testing goal set in April, with the surge of COVID-19 cases, the state is looking at more cost-effective ways to issue more tests, including the possibility of pool-testing.

The secretary's briefing comes one day after Governor Gavin Newsom issued a rollback in California's reopening efforts.

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Dr. Ghaly said data from county health officials is what drove the state to choose specific business sectors to shut down. He added the sectors all involved mixing people from different households for long durations of time, which increased the risk of transmission.

Ghaly said that the state is also looking to increase its number of contact tracers. Currently, the state has around 10,000 tracers.

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