SD County Working to Make Coronavirus Testing More Accessible

San Diego County is working to make testing more readily available as seven people have now tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus. One person may have caught it through community contact

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San Diego County health officials said Thursday they are working to make testing kits for the new coronavirus more readily available after announcing five new cases, bringing the number to seven, and a "very likely" risk of spread to the community.

San Diego County Public Health officials said at a press conference they are exploring alternative options for testing, including mobile testing throughout San Diego County. In addition, county doctors are looking to open drive-through testing facilities similar to those already operating in Denver, Colorado.

“We are looking at increasing the mobile capacity of testing to be in individuals’ homes without them even having to leave their home, said Dr. Nick Yphantides, San Diego County's chief medical officer. “We are also looking at developing a drive-through option.”

In confronting the spread of the virus, medical authorities across the country have voiced frustration over the initial testing procedures put in place by the Centers for Disease Control. 

On Thursday, a top public health official publicly acknowledged the United States has failed to meet the capacity for the coronavirus testing needed.

"The system is not really geared to what we need right now," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “That is a failing. Let’s admit it.”

On Thursday, California Governor Gavin Newsom said there are four other testing locations in the state, including the University of California San Diego’s Center for Advanced Laboratory Medicine. A spokesperson for UCSD confirmed it has limited, in-house COVID-19 testing capabilities but specified they are only available to their patients only. 

Newsom also criticized the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for a testing shortage, stating there is a state backlog due to not having all of the components or reagents needed to make the test kits available. 

“It’s very much in line with you going to the store and purchasing a printer but forgetting to purchase the ink,” Newsom said. “You need multiple components. And so it’s incumbent upon all of us to make sure those components are intact.” 

A spokesperson for San Diego County said testing kits received here locally from the CDC were complete and intact.

Dr. Wilma Wooten, San Diego County’s Public Health Officer, said tests are currently performed by the local Public Health Laboratory, and some private labs. Local hospitals are developing their capability to test for the virus but so far, only UCSD’s hospital has the ability to test patients for COVID-19.

The most recent numbers show the virus continues to spread across the globe. San Diego County is no different.

County health officials said a total of six people have now tested positive for the coronavirus in San Diego County. A U.S. Marine stationed at MCAS Miramar is the seventh case, a county official confirmed.

Among the others who tested positive are: two men, one in his 40s and the other in his 50’s, who are thought to have contracted the disease while traveling to Colorado; a woman in her 70s who was on board the Diamond Princess Cruise Ship; another woman in her 70s who contracted the virus on a Grand Princess Cruise and is currently in federal quarantine; and a man in his 50s who officials suspect could have possibly caught the virus from the community -- a first if true.

NBC 7's Mari Payton has the latest developments the county has on testing patients with COVID-19.

“In the past 24 hours, monumental events have occurred that will impact what we’re announcing today to protect public health and slow the rate of spread of COVID-19,” said Wooten.

According to the latest numbers provided to NBC 7 Investigates, the county has two testing kits from the CDC consisting of 600 tests each, with a rolling request into the federal government for more. 

A spokesperson added that its important to note some people need more than one test, so there is not a one-to-one correlation between "tests" and "people tested."

To date, the county says 115 tests have been run, 85 of those returned with negative results, 25 are now pending, and five tested positive.

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