Public Health to expand testing for COVID-19

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The governor said the plan now is to go out into the community and conduct a focused testing campaign in high-risk population areas starting this week.

Governor Lou Leon Guerrero on Monday announced that the Department of Public Health has come up with a plan to significantly expand testing for COVID-19.

The announcement comes after just 154 tests were conducted over the past week which found only three positive cases of COVID-19.

The Governor expressed hope that the dramatic drop in positive cases could mean we’ve turned the corner. But the Governor wants to be sure before lifting any social distancing restrictions.

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“I know that many of you have wondered why the number of executed tests has declined in the past few days. This is simple. Fewer and fewer people present themselves with COVID-19 symptoms at our hospital clinics,” the governor said.

The plan now is to go out into the community and conduct a focused testing campaign in high-risk population areas starting this week. The focus will be on the uninsured, the homeless, low-income areas and high-risk first responders and health care workers.

Public Health director Linda DeNorcey said her staff will be working with the mayors to identify those areas.

“We are not only looking at people who are not coming to the clinics to get a test done. We are also reaching out to those remote areas, those isolated areas where we have people residing like in the Hemlani, Gill Breeze, and Santa Ana subdivisions,” DeNorcey said.

“In Santa Ana there’s a basketball court that we’re planning to put up a tent, and do the swabbing there. Astumbo gym there is a drive through in the back and also the Yigo gym.”

Travel history will no longer be a factor.

“We’re going to allow testing of all patients with mild illnesses,” said DeNorcey. She said that includes anyone that presents with fever, a cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, disruption of taste or smell, or diarrhea.

To accomplish that hundreds of test kits are needed and DeNorcey said they are coming from two sources.

“The World Health Organization for 200 more tests kits that are expected in two weeks. And then three additional shipments will follow every two weeks. The other source is through the U.S. CDC were expecting 200 kits that should arrive on April 22. And an additional 200 kits expected on April 29.”

The governor said she expects that when the expanded testing is fully up and running, they will be able to conduct 252 tests per day.

It’s the data from that testing, said the governor, that will serve as the basis for when social distance restrictions will be lifted and when we’ll get back to normal.

“It’s going to be driven by infection rates, it’s going to be driven by the severity of the illness. It’s going to be driven by how our community spread is. We will be gradually and slowly lifting restrictions,” the governor said.

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