The County Public Health Laboratory is now able to test for the novel coronavirus, substantially reducing the time it takes for results, the Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) announced Friday.
This means that HHSA will no longer have to send all specimens to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“Being able to test locally means that when we have patients under investigation, we can more rapidly remove unneeded restrictions from those without infection. Should someone test positive, we will continue to keep them isolated,” said Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County public health officer.
Prior to getting the testing kit, the County Public Lab had to send specimens to the CDC and results would take several days to return. Now, those tested patients will be able to receive their results within 24 to 48 hours. Although positive tests will still need to be confirmed by the CDC, HHSA said.
The County Public Health Lab has the capability to do up to 40 tests in one run and is certified by the CDC to test for coronavirus, HHSA said.
A week after testing began in San Diego, other cities began limiting their testing supply due to shortage concerns. Although, in San Diego, health officials do not have that concern.
In late February, the county health department received 600 test kits. A week later, spokesperson Jose Alvarez said 200 of those kits have been used, leaving 400 still available.
Alvarez says the county was also expecting to receive more of the kits this week.
Many of the areas with test kit shortages have been dealing with confirmed new coronavirus cases. That means there is a domino-like effect of people who may have been in contact with the positive patient and need to be tested.
In San Diego County, there have been no confirmed cases of the coronavirus identified as COVID-19. Alvarez said there are currently 11 cases pending, awaiting test results.
Nearly 100 people are being monitored. These are people who have traveled to high impact areas, like China, and are being asked to self-quarantine for 14 days.
The CDC currently recommends testing patients with symptoms — fever, cough or difficulty breathing — after returning from China or other areas with community transmission of coronavirus disease or who have had known contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case.