VDH working to increase testing capacity, accessibility

Virginia News

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — As we move through the first week of May, the Virginia Department of Health held a tele-press conference Wednesday morning to provide an update on testing for COVID-19 in the commonwealth.

State health officials said Virginia is at a much better place in regards to testing capacity and active testing efforts.

Coronavirus testing has increased substantially in the last month, over 6,500 Virginians get tested a day and laboratories are turning the results around quickly, said VDH NW Regional Health Emergency Coordinator, Michael Keatts.

“Testing in Virginia continues to be a collaborative effort,” Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services Director, Dr. Denise Toney said.

The state is working with private labs, hospitals and universities like Virginia Commonwealth University and University of Virginia. Both UVA and VCU are helping out with public health related testing.

Now the next step is to continue improving accessibility.

During the teleconference, state officals said VDH has updated its testing guidelines to include additional risk categories. Testing now includes Virginians with no COVID-19 symptoms who are deemed to be at high-risk by their doctor.

VDH Recommendations for COVID-19 testing

The state’s health department is also regularly updating a map of all known testing places in Virginia. There were 58 testing sites in April, now there are more than 160 sites across the state.

Retail pharmacy chains are starting to come online as testing sites. Right now, Rite Aid has two locations (Virginia Beach and Colonial Heights). VDH said they are expecting this to become more common moving forward.

VDH said they are actively conducting point prevalence testing at congregate facilities across the state. One of the goals is to test all residents and staff at nursing homes to control infection and prevent the spread.

VDH has been reaching out to nursing homes that either had outbreaks or positive cases documented to ask if they were interested in having PPT surveillance done. This effort is being conducted in partnership with the National Guard.

At this time, the National Guard is working on targeting 100 nursing homes in Virginia.

VDH said they are not actively reaching out to correctional facilities like they are nursing homes but they are offering PPT to prisons and jails upon request.

Across Virginia, there are handful of labs looking to implement antibody tests, also known as serological tests. These tests are not used for diagnostic purposes but rather as a surveillance tool to evaluate how well public health interventions are working, Dr. Denise Toney said.

The FDA requires any facility performing these tests to apply for emergency use authorization. There are some in Virginia that have applied for and received these requirements through the FDA.

Results are being reported to VDH but they aren’t included in the total test number nor are they publicly reported at this time.

To find more information on VDH’s new testing guidelines, click here.

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