Data dig: How close is the Valley (and California) to conducting enough tests to reopen confidently?

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Testing is number one on the list of indicators for California to modify the "stay at home" order and start a return to normal from the coronavirus.

A Harvard study is guiding most public health officials on reopening the economy.

It estimates the number of tests counties and states should be able to conduct to do it confidently.

"We're estimating we need about 1,500 tests per day to safely and effectively really reopen all of Fresno County and feel safe that we're testing enough people," said Fresno County health officer Dr. Rais Vohra.

California came closer to meeting the 1,500 tests per day per million people goal with its busiest week of testing. The state conducted more than 222,000 tests last week, about 800 per day per million people.

But Fresno County still trailed well behind, averaging about 150 to 250 for the last few weeks.

The slow expansion has, at times, frustrated Dr. Vohra.

"The real bottleneck, and I've mentioned this before, is not even the reagents and the machines that run the specimens," he said. "It's actually those darn Q-tips. It's really hard to get those Q-tips you get to do the swabs."

The ABC data journalism team and Action News crunched the numbers across the country and found the Golden State jumping from near the bottom to middle of the pack among the states.

The state has analyzed conducted more than 482,000 tests now, about 1,220 per million people. Kansas is the worst state, having done just 7,317 tests per million people since the outbreak started.

Fresno County has done 6,150 per million as of Saturday. Tulare County has done 6,890. And Kern has done 7,620.

The good news is, the numbers are climbing just about everywhere.

Fresno County got 355 results Saturday, its biggest one-day total ever.

And as the state sends new lab crews to the county this week, private labs and hospitals are ramping up. Community Hospitals alone can now conduct and analyze at least 500 tests a day.

"St. Agnes has in-house testing," Dr. Vohra said. "Kaiser Permanente has in-house testing as well. So we're very proud of how our hospital partners have risen to the occasion."

Dr. Vohra says he's not satisfied, but he thinks they've done well considering the limitations.

And he's recently ordered 45,000 new swabs from the state, hoping to create a massive testing increase in a short amount of time, so reopening doesn't seem so far away.
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