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NEVADA CITY, Calif. July 10, 2020 – Booking an appointment and receiving test result from the state testing sites in Nevada County takes close to two weeks now. The OptumServe test sites in Grass Valley and Truckee are operating normally, but nearing capacity. Delayed results mean the daily count of new cases is more a look back in time than a real-time snapshot.

We reached out to Nevada County and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) regarding this trend.

“Our OptumServe testing site is preforming really well and meeting the capacity for testing available each day. This helps us understand COVID-19 in our community and ensure that we can conduct our case investigation and contract tracing process for confirmed positive cases, limiting the spread within our community. The current lag in receiving lab results is a statewide issue due to lab capacity and supplies, which the state is working to rectify. We are also working with the LHI staff at our OptumServe site to let people who are coming in for testing know about the lag in results,” said Jill Blake, Nevada County’s Public Health Director.

Blake added, “We are receiving other results [non-OptumServe] back more quickly, so the lag in our receiving results is for only some of the tests on our residents.”

Nevada County CEO Alison Lehman is equally cognizant of the issue, “Nevada County continues to work with our Public Health officials and follow their guidance to keep the community healthy, safe and limit the spread. If we all follow this guidance, we can limit the spread in our community even as we have most of our business industries open with modifications under the State’s current requirements. Currently, Nevada County is not on the State’s ‘watch list’ for counties that may be required to ‘roll back’ reopening and we hope we won’t get there. We thank our businesses and our community for leaning in to modifications we are making to our daily lives for our community’s health and safety.”

Lehman also offered a broader perspective on the current situation, “This is a difficult time for everyone in our community. For our businesses and for many of our vulnerable and more isolated individuals. Nevada County continues to look for opportunities to support our community as we all make adjustments to living with COVID-19. Our Board has contributed to the Nevada County Relief Fund to support small businesses and safety-net non-profit organizations and as we reopened many business industries we hosted workshops with local businesses on reopening safely with the State’s modifications. We are currently working to organize a personal protective equipment distribution for local small businesses, and looking ahead towards the CARES Act funding which will soon be coming before our Board.”

As of Monday, July 6, 2020, 8,340 tests have been conducted in Nevada County. The number of tests is updated every Monday. The county’s expanded dashboard is updated daily with new case count and active hospitalizations data.

Changes in statewide testing processing

CDPH spokesperson Ali Bay offered a detailed explanation of their agency’s efforts:

“We are beginning to learn about new constraints faced by laboratories as more states begin to scale their testing capabilities. This was highlighted by Dr. Mark Ghaly in a statement issued this past weekend.

A number of commercial laboratories are processing samples not only from California, but from across the nation, and these laboratories are becoming overwhelmed with large volumes of specimens, slowing down processing timelines. As a result, California has instructed all laboratories to prioritize the processing of specimens from high-risk groups, including individuals who are COVID-19 symptomatic and those who are hospitalized or in long-term care facilities.

Additionally, the state is working on the following items to help address these issues:

  1. We are working to match organizations with laboratories to ensure that we are leveraging all laboratory capacity across the state, both among public and private laboratories. We continue to assess capacity among laboratories, which can be found online: Labs with Testing Capacity (PDF)

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  1. We continue to build out the supply chain for swabs, viral media, and specimen collection kits. We have been working with a California-based company to build out a supply chain. To date, we have distributed 3.4 million swabs, 2.2 million vials of viral media, and 414,000 specimen collection kits.
  1. We continue to work with our federal partners to help address supply chain issues, specifically around reagents and cartridges. Now, we need the federal government more than ever help us ensure that we have the supplies to process specimens timely.
  1. We have issued a survey to all local public health laboratories and academic laboratories to assess current supply limitations and projected supply limitations to ensure that all laboratories are being utilized at full capacity for PCR COVID-19 testing.
  1. We are working to assess and deploy other testing modalities, such as pooled testing, to better leverage resources. The Testing Task Force has issued guidance around pooled testing and continues to work with laboratories to expanded this modality.

Over the last few months, together we significantly expanded our testing capabilities, from 2,000 tests per day to over 100,000 tests per day. Although we have made considerable progress, we still have much more work to ensure that the supply chain is stable and that we ensure adequate access to testing, particularly among low-income and minority communities.

Finally, as we continue to see a rise in both our cases and hospitalizations, now is the time to ensure that we not only have adequate capacity, but that we are processing all tests timely in order to inform our clinical decisions to further mitigate the spread of the virus.”

During one of this week’s briefings, Governor Newsom hinted at new partnerships being developed with labs and hospitals to scale testing capabilities and reduce the lag time.