Roughly 95 percent of California’s local health departments now have the capacity to contact new coronavirus cases and their recent contacts on the same day their test result is reported, the state’s top public health official said Monday.
The state’s testing numbers have now eclipsed 125,000 per day after late summer heat waves and wildfires prompted some testing centers to temporarily close. Over the weekend, an average of more than 150,000 tests were completed across the state.
Test results are regularly being reported in 24 to 48 hours, at which point the state’s corps of more than 10,000 contact tracers are able to alert people who may have been exposed to a positive case.
The state has also collaborated with local epidemiologists and used remote communication tools like Zoom to support state and local disease investigation efforts.
“(We are) really building up this infrastructure across the state so we can continue to box in the virus as much as we can and make sure that a single case doesn’t turn into 20 or 30 cases,” state Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said Monday during a briefing on the state’s pandemic response.
The state intends to push its daily testing capacity north of 250,000 by next year, due in part to an agreement with the Massachusetts-based diagnostics company PerkinElmer to provide 150,000 of those tests per day.
According to Gov. Gavin Newsom, California will also utilize some $150 million in federal funding and $83 million in philanthropic funds to help counties isolate and quarantine residents who test positive before they have a chance to spread the virus on a large scale.
The increase in testing and focus on contact tracing has also led to a steady downward trend of the state’s daily positivity rate.
Over the last seven and 14 days, the state’s average daily rate is down to 2.6 percent, a full percentage point decrease since mid-September.
“We are not going to slip backwards on testing, we are going to forge forward and be much more aggressive,” Newsom said.
“We’re not ashamed of testing people, we’re not ashamed of identifying individuals that have been tested positive, but we must make that meaningful,” he said.