County health officials released more information on COVID-19 tests Monday evening, emphasizing that as long as the test kits are only used on symptomatic patients, there are plenty to go around.
“Currently, we have more than enough of the testing kits to be able to test patients,” said Dr. Stewart Comer, director of the Cottage Health Laboratory at the county press conference. “This is very important because there are two components of laboratory testing. One is the collection kit where you actually take the swab, and the second portion of this is how you test that.”
He said at the present time, there are over 1,700 collection kits between Cottage Health and private offices. As far as testing, he said, there are several different methods to test the kits. They can be tested via the county’s partnership with Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties, California Public Health, or private laboratories.
“In terms of testing, there is really not a problem,” Comer said. “What’s extremely important to understand is that we really are focusing on symptomatic patients. That’s the focus of the testing, and in that context we have more than enough capacity.”
In other words, only those who have the most obvious physical symptoms combined with the right risk factors will be tested.
Dr. Van Do-Reynoso said that as of press time, 128 tests have been completed by four of the county’s hospitals and Public Health. Of that, 31 are negative, one is positive, and 96 are still pending.
Comer explained the reason it took so long for Santa Barbara County to get the test kits was because the original kits were faulty and unreliable.
“What basically has happened is that once the task forces stood up nationally, they got private labs involved with the public labs, and it’s been that collaboration that has made the difference,” he said. “As of five days ago, we now have some major manufacturers that now have almost standalone, large analyzers that can perform this testing.”
Comer and County Public Health Officer Dr. Henning Ansorg, who joined the press conference via phone, both said they believe that in a week and a half to two weeks, the analyzers will be running and the capacity will be much faster than it is now. Comer described the current testing platform as “older, but still extremely good” and the new, incoming one as “high-end.”
The county’s COVID-19 workgroup, formed by the county’s five hospitals, Public Health, and the community clinics, formed a three-tiered set of community criteria for how patients will be tested. Do-Reynoso said that providers will assess patients according to the criteria with those in tier one getting tested first, and so on. The criteria are as follows:
Tier One: Hospitalized patients; elderly folks in assisted living, senior residential, or nursing homes; health-care workers
Tier Two: Severely ill people
Tier Three: Very mildly ill — self-quarantine at home
Do-Reynoso also said there would soon be “drive-through” or car-based testing from two providers in town. Though she did not disclose the providers, the Indy reported that Sansum is one of them, and it’s opening Tuesday morning. She emphasized that it’s by appointment only and at the recommendation of a Sansum patient’s health-care provider, based on the patient’s risk factors.