Santa Clara County guidance amid COVID-19 testing shortage

As daily coronavirus cases rise and tests remain in short supply, Santa Clara County health officials on Friday issued new guidance on when and where residents should seek a COVID-19 test and what types of tests they should get. should be used.

For starters, county officials emphasized that patients from private health care providers such as Kaiser Permanente or the Palo Alto Medical Foundation should get tested through their providers, rather than the county public health department, if necessary.

a county health order Since September 2020, it is necessary that large healthcare providers have tests available for patients who are either symptomatic or have come into contact with someone with COVID-19 within 24 hours of inquiry. However, some patients are reporting that test appointments are not available through their providers for more than a week.

Santa Clara County attorney James Williams said his department is ready to issue fines to private providers who don’t step up, asking patients to report their challenges in getting the test.,

“The data is very clear that large systems are not providing testing proportionately,” Williams said during a news briefing on Friday, “but what we really need is personal information from people who are facing challenges. “

The Santa Clara County Public Health Department typically serves about 15% of the county’s residents, but is conducting more than 20% of COVID tests nationwide, according to county data. By comparison, Kaiser, which serves about 30% of the county’s population, has conducted 12% of the tests and the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, which serves 16.5% of residents, is conducting only 2.4% of the tests, Williams said. .

A spokeswoman for Sutter Health, which is part of the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, said in a written statement Friday that the provider tried to double its testing capacity over the past three weeks to meet increased demand, but accepted Said that the appointments were still limited.

“We really need all the big health systems in the county to do their jobs, so the burden isn’t just on the county,” Williams said.

Santa Clara County isn’t the only public health department that is surging cases after nearly two years of despair over a disproportionate share of coronavirus testing and vaccination efforts.

San Francisco public health officials demanded earlier this week that its private health care providers submit weekly proof that they are providing test appointments within 24 hours and results within 48 hours for 90% of their patients. Those who have symptoms or who were exposed to the virus. San Francisco’s order applies to urgent care clinics, offices in acute care hospitals and medical groups with at least 100 doctors, nurses or other medical staff.

“It’s not about punishment, it’s about doing their part,” San Francisco Mayor London Breed said during a January 11 news briefing.

In Alameda County, public health officials are also urging people who have medical insurance to contact their doctor or healthcare provider for testing before going to county clinics.

“We call for support and expansion from pharmacies, private providers or laboratories, doctors’ offices and health care systems in Alameda County, while our community sites focus on free, low-barrier testing in priority areas most affected by COVID-19 Neetu Balram, spokeswoman for the Alameda County Public Health Department, wrote in an emailed statement Friday.

As for where individuals should be tested, Santa Clara County Health Officer Sarah Cody provided some new guidelines Friday in hopes of clearing up confusion and better rationing limited tests.

Both PCR testing and at-home antigen testing can be used to determine whether someone has contracted the virus.

People who test positive on an at-home test should consider those results valid and not have a follow-up PCR test at a healthcare service or county facility, according to Cody.

Cody said that instead of PCR tests at home antigen tests should be used to shorten the isolation or quarantine period for those who have tested positive or have been in contact with someone with COVID .

People who have previously tested positive within the past 90 days should not get tested again during that time frame unless they have new symptoms. In that case, they should use an antigen test instead of a PCR test, as they are more sensitive and will remain positive for longer than a person’s first case of COVID-19, Cody said.

With the availability of COVID-19 testing failing to meet severely increased demand, Cody said it was even more important to “double down” on other layers of prevention, such as those on symptoms or risk. Isolate, avoid large events and wear masks in public.