Early in the Covid-19 pandemic not everyone could get a test because test supplies were in short demand. Then people were encouraged to get tested and get tested they did, waiting in long lines at testing pop-up sites. That put a strain on commercial labs, which caused long wait times for results.
Test sites are still taking all those wanting tests, but Natividad CEO Gary Gray said on Wednesday, July 29, people with no symptoms and no contact with someone confirmed with Covid-19 should take a pass on getting tested, leaving testing for those at higher risk.
"Testing does not answer everyone's questions, it's just a slice in time," he said. The tests only show whether someone is positive or negative the day they take the test. If results take longer than several days, the value of the results makes the test less effective.
"If you have to wait a week to get results you really lose the ability to intervene and have a widespread public health impact and by doing wide scale testing," he said. "So right now we need to test smart, we don't need to test everyone."
As from the beginning, hospitalized patients are in the top tier of who will be tested. The second tier includes people with symptoms but not hospitalized, as well as health care workers, residents of group homes and people in shelters. Third are frontline workers including farmworkers and essential workers in stores and restaurants. Fourth are those in the community with no symptoms.
He said widespread testing probably shouldn't be done until test results take 48 hours or less.
Nevertheless, community testing is continuing, Monterey County officials said on Friday, July 31. The OptumServe sites in Salinas and Greenfield are still taking appointments, as well as walk-ins for people with symptoms. (See the Monterey County website for more information.)
Testing at Monterey Peninsula College by Planned Parenthood Mar Monte continues to be available, as is at the organizations health centers, and pop-up sites by the Visiting Nurses Association are still being scheduled.
Monterey County Health Officer Edward Moreno said test samples are prioritized, which means those in the bottom tiers wait longer for results. The Monterey County Public Health Laboratory tests samples from hospitals and congregant living situations first, like samples from the Monterey County Jail during its recent outbreak.
(The biggest problem facing the OptumServe sites currently is a 30-50 percent rate of no shows, said Health Department spokesperson Karen Smith. She urged people to show up for their appointments to make room for others who need appointments. People who plan on not showing up should log into the registration system and cancel their appointment.)
Gray recommended that people concerned about possibly being exposed to Covid-19 call a doctor for advice on how to proceed. He said if someone knows a person who tested positive they should ask themselves whether they were within six feet for 15 minutes or longer, or if the person with Covid-19 coughed or sneezed on them. If not, Gray said, people probably don’t need to be tested.
He also said during Wednesday's press conference by the CEO's of all four hospitals in the county are noticing people who had Covid-19 or were exposed to it are coming in stating employers are requiring a test before returning to work, which is not required by the state. Moreno confirmed that fact on Friday.
"Once a person tests positive for Covid 19, there really isn't a need to have follow up tests," Moreno said. Those who were positive, recover and complete 10 days in isolation are no longer infectious. "From a public health perspective there is no need for another test if you’ve tested positive."