Deeper in Phase 2? Central Valley counties need more testing

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- California has massively increased coronavirus testing in the last few weeks as counties try to meet high standards the governor set for reopening.

Action News has tracked the testing data to see how close Central Valley counties have gotten to reaching the goals.

When testing became the number one indicator for California to modify "stay at home" orders two weeks ago, every county in the Central Valley had a long way to go to get where they needed to be.

"Honestly, it's disappointing to see," said Fresno County health officer Dr. Rais Vohra as he looked at the chart tracking the county's testing data. "I mean, our goal is to get 1,500 tests per day and it looks like during our good weeks we're doing 1,500 tests per week."

Dr. Vohra has seen the county struggle to reach its goal.

Conducting 1,500 tests per day is supposed to make sure the public health department understands just how much the virus has spread and help them get sick patients isolated quicker.

After weeks of a testing traffic jam, the lanes opened up last week.

Fresno County conducted more than 2,600 tests in six days, still only 445 per day, but almost twice as many as in previous weeks.

But they've only tested 1.1% of the population.

"We really just need to get that testing number increased," said senior epidemiologist Dr. Stephanie Koch-Kumar. "And I think the opening of the new testing sites is gonna help us get there."

Those sites at Fresno City College and in Sanger can each administer and process up to 132 tests per day.

Tulare County also added two of the state-funded sites last week, in Porterville and Dinuba.

They've tested 1.5% of the population now and doubled their testing numbers since we last checked in two weeks ago.

They averaged just less than 400 tests per day last week with a target of 700 per day.

Mariposa County leads the way in the Valley with 3.2% of its population tested already, and they've kept their case number down to 15.

Kings County is next at 1.7% followed by Tulare, Merced County, Fresno, and Madera County at the bottom, testing just 0.9% of its population so far.

All of them still have work to do, some more than others, and they're hoping the public and private sectors can cooperate.

"We know that more and more of our primary care doctors are coming online, so we're hoping that this is really just a lack of communication more than a lack of testing," said Dr. Vohra.

The sooner testing increases the better for businesses.

When counties reach the benchmark testing numbers, they clear one of the main hurdles to reopening several industries, including dine-in restaurants.

Anyone can get tested at the state-run sites and you can make appointments for the FCC, Sanger, Porterville, Dinuba, Hanford, and Merced locations by going here.
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