Everything You Need to Know About Coronavirus Test Kits

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As public and commercial labs in San Diego and across the country race to get coronavirus test kits approved and out to providers, local officials stress there isn’t enough to go around.    

So what does all this mean for you?

To put it simply: just because you want a test, doesn't mean you can get one.

Even if you show symptoms of the virus, officials now suggest only patients who need hospital treatment will know for sure whether it's the flu - or the coronavirus.

"We do not have the testing capacity to test every single individual who has symptoms,” said County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher to reporters Thursday. “We do not have the testing capacity at this time to test everyone who would like a test.”

It’s a situation local officials don’t predict will get better anytime soon.

“Everyone is frustrated that we don’t have all the tests that we would like to have at this time,” said San Diego County Medical Director of Epidemiology Dr. Eric McDonald to reporters on Wednesday. “We hope to have them in two to three weeks.”

In fact, McDonald told reporters he wants to change the public's mindset away from tests altogether.

“I want people to get out of the idea that you have to have a test to know what to do,” said McDonald.

He says if you have symptoms just stay at home, in isolation and away from others.

“You don’t need a test to do those things,” says McDonald.

But say you feel so sick you might need to go to the hospital, how do you get a test?

There's no public list of testing locations.

So if you develop symptoms (a fever, cough or shortness of breath) call your provider.

You can find the number for the four largest providers in our county online, at on the coronavirus information page.

While there are drive-through testing tents and so-called coronavirus cabanas set up outside some hospitals, county representatives caution they can't guarantee those test costs will be waived if they're outside your provider.       

On Thursday, county officials reported the public health laboratory here in San Diego has 250 more test kits, but it's running low on the parts it needs to run all of those tests. Officials also say the lag time for commercial labs locally, indicate they are also running low.

While private and commercial labs are starting to test for the virus, the bulk of testing across the country is being handled by public health laboratories.

Our state has the lion's share of those labs - including one right here in San Diego.

As of Thursday, California has 22 public labs running test samples for COVID -19, including our local lab, with plans for more labs in the state to start testing soon. That's important to be able to get results sooner.

NBC 7 spoke over the phone with the spokesperson for the National Association of Public Health Laboratories. She says these labs were designed for disease control and surveillance. They were never meant for "mass-scale testing" like the kind President Trump offered the public.

Last Friday, the most recent day with reliable numbers, labs across the U.S. conducted more than 4.600 tests for the coronavirus.

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