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California Coronavirus Update: Contact Tracing Program Not Built For This Much Spread

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California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly delivered an update Tuesday on California's efforts to get testing for those in need, as well as more updates on the spread of the coronavirus, via a Zoom video conference. (You can watch the full video above.)

NEW COVID-19 TESTING GUIDELINES

The state will be releasing new COVID-19 testing guidelines online this afternoon, Ghaly said. This includes prioritizing who gets tested, and which tests get processed first by labs.

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Ghaly noted the importance of being able to get results as fast as possible for hospitalized patients, as well as for those in skilled nursing facilities. The state is working to make sure all COVID-19 testing in California is free, in partnership with health plans, Ghaly said.

Ghaly talked about different types of testing that are being explored, including pool testing, to help resources go further. He also noted supply issues that the state has faced with testing.

CONTACT TRACING NOT BUILT FOR THIS MUCH SPREAD

Ghaly noted the need to be targeted with contact tracing at this time due to the high rate of transmission, despite the state hitting its goal of 10,000 contact tracers.

"We did not build the current contact tracing program on this level of transmission," Ghaly said.

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The state is working aggressively to bring down transmission rates to allow contact tracing to work efficiently, Ghaly said.

SHIFTING TESTING COSTS TO HEALTH PLANS, PROVIDERS

The state is reaching out to encourage more testing by local providers and local labs, said Business, Consumer Services and Housing Secretary Castro Ramirez.

The cost of testing is enormous for both the state and for California's health plan partners, Ghaly said. The state is working with health plans and health care providers to pay for testing their patients, while the state focuses its own testing on under-tested communities. Right now, tests cost around $100 per test on average, Ghaly said, adding that the state is working to reduce that cost.

Ghaly announced two new co-chairs for the state's coronavirus task force: Center for Infectious Diseases Deputy Director Dr. Gil Chavez and Kaiser Chief Health Officer Dr. Bechara Choucair. Chavez noted that he has dealt with other public health challenges in California such as SARS and Ebola.

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