x

Health

Virus Testing Shortages and Delays Help Fuel Surge

January 9, 2022

LOS ANGELES — The difficulty finding coronavirus test kits in many parts of California and delays in getting results are causing increasing frustration and contributing to the surge of infections that in just two weeks more than doubled the number of people in hospitals with COVID-19.

Negative test results can be a necessity for any number of activities, from going to work to boarding an airplane or attending a sporting event. Delays in getting results — or inability to find a test kit — can mean people with very mild or no symptoms may presume they are not infected and go about their usual routines.

“If you are tested and you’re positive then you know you need to isolate,” said Abraar Karan, an infectious diseases doctor at Stanford University. “If you can’t get tested, and you don’t have the luxury to just quarantine without knowing, sure, you may have people going out and infecting others.”

The surge of cases in California has led to a soaring demand for tests that in many places simply can’t be found. Some county mail-in testing programs have been halted due to exploding demand. In places where tests are available, people sometimes have to wait in line for several hours.

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Friday that he is activating the California National Guard to add testing sites and boost capacity. More than 200 guard members are being deployed to 50 sites to help with clinical staffing and crowd control, the governor said.

There’s also been a lag in obtaining test results. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, an epidemiology professor at University of California, San Francisco’s medical school, said she heard one lab was taking nine days to return results — longer than someone exposed to COVID-19 may have to quarantine.

“If you are trying to do the right thing, and you decided to wait in line to get a test, having a long time to get actionable information is not helpful,” she said. “It’s sort of absurd.”

Some people have resorted to paying $100 or more for a rapid result — something many can’t afford.

Shane Hirschman, a 36-year-old from San Clemente, said he ordered a mail-in test kit from the Orange County health agency last week but never received one. When he started feeling sick this week, he said he couldn’t find an at-home kit in stores and testing appointments at nearby pharmacies were booked. He wound up paying nearly $100 for a rapid test to confirm he didn’t have the variant.

“They’ve had a year and a half to sort this out and it shouldn’t be like this,” he said. “I don’t feel like I can pay 100 bucks every day.”

In Los Angeles County, where a quarter of the state’s nearly 40 million people live, overwhelming demand prompted a temporary halt to a program that allowed people to test at home and mail back their sample. Public health director Barbara Ferrer said she hopes the testing crunch will ease in coming days. In the meantime, she urged restraint.

“Please don’t decide that because you didn’t get tested, you don’t have COVID and you don’t have to stay home if you’ve got symptoms,” she said. “We do ask while we’re trying to increase testing capacity and make it much easier for everyone who need to test to get a test that you please stay home while you’re symptomatic.”

California, like the rest of the country, has been overtaken by the omicron variant, which spreads more easily than other coronavirus strains. It also more easily infects those who have been vaccinated or had previously been infected by prior versions of the virus, though it appears less likely to cause severe illness.

Since Christmas, more than 5,000 people in California have been admitted to hospitals with COVID. In many cases, they went in for something else and only learned they were infected upon testing.

State models used to forecast the impact of the virus show that within a month California could have a record 23,000 people in hospitals with COVID-19.

Orange County, the state’s third most populous with more than 3 million residents, is among a growing number of places where hospitals are becoming strained by the flood of COVID patients coupled with a high number of nurses and other workers who are not on the job because they are infected or quarantined due to exposure to the virus.

Dr. Regina Chinsio-Kwong, the county’s deputy health officer, said many hospitals have resorted to using tents to triage patients, something not seen since a year ago when the state was in the throes of its deadliest surge. Ambulances are waiting nearly an hour to drop off patients.

“It is a dire situation right now,” she said.

RELATED

New year, new goals. But “old habits die hard”, as Jagger says.

Top Stories

Church

BOSTON – The Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Alexandria in its recent meeting dealt with the ecclesiastical coup perpetrated by the Patriarchate of Moscow in its canonical jurisdiction, calling it an “immoral invasion and intrusion.

Church

NEW YORK - Some 21 years after it was destroyed in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States that brought down the Twin Towers in New York City, the new St Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church rising in its place is among the most eagerly awaited architectural openings of 2022.

Events

STATEN ISLAND, NY – For yet another year, the community of Holy Trinity-St Nicholas in Staten Island honored couples celebrating 50+ years of marriage with a modest ceremony held at the church immediately following the Divine Liturgy on January 16.

Video

The National Herald’s Happenings of the Week by Eraklis Diamataris

The National Herald’s Happenings of the Week (Jan 15 – Jan 21) as have been reported at the print and digital editions of TNH and presented by the TNH Editor Eraklis Diamataris.

Enter your email address to subscribe

Provide your email address to subscribe. For e.g. abc@xyz.com

You may unsubscribe at any time using the link in our newsletter.