COVID-19 testing still limited

COVID-19 testing still limited

As the number of cases continues to increase and community transmission is becoming more widespread, more San Diegans are wondering why the local medical community is not testing everyone who might have COVID-19.

The answer: Testing is still limited and primarily for people at higher risk of complications from COVID-19, and not everyone needs to get tested for the novel coronavirus.

“Testing for COVID-19 is still limited so we are prioritizing people who need it the most,” said Dr. Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County public health officer. “About 80 percent of people who get COVID-19 have mild to moderate symptoms and don’t need to be tested.”

Who should be tested?
At the moment, COVID-19 testing is being considered for people who have a fever and a cough and are part of the following:

  • Have a lower respiratory illness and no other potential cause, especially if they are hospitalized
  • People living in a senior living facility, including nursing facilities or assisted living facilities
  • People who are elderly
  • People in congregate settings, such as homeless shelters
  • Health care workers, first responders and other emergency workers

Close contacts of confirmed COVID-19 cases who develop symptoms are likely to be positive for the disease as well. Testing is not required if the patient is not severely ill, not in a priority population or not at high risk for complications.

“Testing people who have mild or moderate symptoms, but are not at higher risk of severe complications depletes testing resources and scarce personal protective equipment and exposes other patients and health care personnel to COVID-19,” Wooten said, adding that this recommendation might change when testing is more widely available.

So, what should you do if you think you have COVID-19 symptoms?

Stay at home.

If you’ve had symptoms, the recommendation is for you to stay home under the following conditions:

  • At least three days (72 hours) have passed since recovery, defined as resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and improvement in respiratory symptoms such as cough or shortness of breath; and
  • At least seven days have passed since symptoms first appeared.

“We all should be doing everything we can to flatten the curve since this is a life-saving action,” Wooten said.

If you have questions about COVID-19 testing, please talk to your healthcare provider or call 2-1-1 to talk to a public health nurse.

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