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As Cases Rise, a Shift in Thinking on Tests

Emphasis shifts to workers and equipment for next stage
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 22, 2020 10:00 AM CDT

(Newser) – With the coronavirus spreading despite efforts to contain it, health officials in the parts of the US hit hardest are moving on to prepare for the next stage of the battle. Tests for the virus are being reserved for medical care workers and patients most at risk from COVID-19, the Washington Post reports. The emphasis in places including New York and California now is on conserving tests and equipment. "In a universe where masks and gowns are starting to become scarce, every time we test someone who doesn’t need one, we're taking that mask and gown away from someone in the intensive care unit," a New York City health official said. So instead of testing everyone "who comes in with fever, cough, respiratory symptom, flu-like illness, we're making the assumption that they have this," a New York emergency room director said. "There’s no benefit for you to test."

Los Angeles County health officials have told physicians to do the test only if confirmation would affect the patient's treatment as hospitals prepare for an onslaught of cases in the next few weeks. "We are ramping up hospital capacity and taking extraordinary measures to increase supplies," the LA County health director said. In addition to a shortage of tests, there aren't enough staff members nationally to track the origin of new coronavirus cases, per the Los Angeles Times. It's too late for containment. This also means there won't be an accurate count of people with the virus. Public health officials in California have said for years that federal budget cuts had hurt their ability to handle a crisis, per the Times. (Read more coronavirus stories.)

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