What’s the COVID-19 testing protocol for Long Beach?

[Editor’s note: Home-isolation-care tips for those experiencing COVID-19 can be accessed by clicking here]

Long Beach officials recently released more information on how patients are tested for coronavirus, COVID-19.

If someone feels like they could have symptoms related to the novel coronavirus, such as a fever, cough or shortness of breath, they are urged to call their medical provider.

Their doctor should be able to determine if they need to administer a test or not. If a test is required, then the patient’s doctor will make an appointment with them to conduct a swab test.

The doctor will insert a long swap into the nose or mouth of the patient to collect the necessary materials to conduct the test.

From the time a patient is tested until the time results are received could take 24 to 48 hours, according to spokesperson Marlene Arrona of the Long Beach Joint Information Center.

The swab is then put into a viral transport media to be sent to a laboratory for testing. The media allows microorganisms like coronaviruses, which are typically not very hardy, to survive long enough for them to be detected in the lab, according to Long Beach officials.

When the media arrives at the laboratories, machines conduct chemical reagents to run tests on the samples. Reagents are a key component to the test kits as this is what causes a reaction in the presence of COVID-19.

Results that are positive for the virus are required to be reported to the local public health jurisdiction, usually through electronic lab reporting.

After all the testing is concluded, the patient’s doctor then determines if they need hospital treatment or home isolation. The local public health jurisdiction determines whether a case investigation is warranted, according to a Long Beach press release.

As of March 31, The Long Beach Health Department and their private laboratory partners have conducted more than 1,300 tests. About 500 full test kits were available to address the need quickly. There were about 1,000 test swabs that were waiting for the transport media. The transport media completes the COVID-19 collection kits so that people can be tested.

Long Beach Health Lab currently processes an average of 30 tests per day, according to the press release. This is crucial in providing necessary information to start treatments.

Long Beach is sticking with national guidelines and is not testing folks who show mild symptoms.

The City stated those feeling sick should isolate at home until three conditions are met:

1) There is no fever and no fever medication has been taken for least 72 hours
2) Symptoms, such as cough, and shortness of breath, have improved
3) At least seven days have passed since symptoms first appeared, before going out into public areas

As of April 1, what was once a recommendation to self-isolate for those experiencing symptoms has now been transformed into a direct order.

“The spread of COVID-19 is creating an exponentially increasing public health risk to the Long Beach community,” Mayor Robert Garcia stated in a press release. “These orders are necessary to protect vulnerable people, and to help slow the spread of COVID-19.”

The new requirement states those experiencing symptoms may only leave their home to buy food or pick up medication. They must also notify individuals they have had close contact with that they may have been exposed to the virus.

These orders are based on the “significant increase” in folks testing positive for COVID-19 in Long Beach. As of late last month, there have been over 100 cases reported.

Long Beach officials added that the reagents and transport media used for COVID-19 testing are “in extremely limited supply” across the nation, which could delay the process.

Other items that have been reported to be in limited supply are ventilators. These machines are used to help patients breathe. One of the reported symptoms of COVID-19 is shortness of breath, and this type of machine would help a patient if their condition worsens.

Arrona told the Signal Tribune via email that Long Beach health workers are working closely with hospital partners to determine the number of ventilators that may be required.

“As the distribution of medical equipment, like ventilators, is based on supply and demand, our partners are diligently working to obtain all necessary equipment to treat COVID-19 patients,” Arrona’s email read. “Hospitals are developing strategies to ensure an adequate supply is available, however, depending on patient surge in the region, the current stock of ventilators may not be enough.”

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