BAY AREA (CBS SF) — Health officials in the seven Bay Area jurisdictions issued an order Tuesday requiring all commercial and academic labs to provide more comprehensive information on coronavirus testing in the region.
The order was jointly issued by the Public Health Officers of Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties along with the city of Berkeley. According to the new order, all laboratories must report results of tests for all residents of each jurisdiction to the ordering health care provider and the appropriate state and local health officials.
So far, labs have only been reporting positive results and not including the total number of people being tested. Local health officials say having information on all positive, negative and inconclusive results as well as information that allows health officials to better locate the test subject will improve understanding of the rates of infection and the location of possible infection clusters.
Officials say due to the limitations of public health laboratories and the absence of reporting requirements on private laboratories, the current percentage of cases being detected through testing reflects only a small portion of the total number of people infected in the seven Bay Area jurisdictions.
“This order will ensure public health officials regionally and across the state have access to the information we need to understand, predict, and combat the spread of COVID-19,” said Santa Clara County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody. “Commercial and academic laboratories are important partners in providing testing to our community. Receiving this critical information from those labs will help local health departments respond to COVID-19 during this unprecedented time.”
“Expanding reporting beyond positive results to include timely reporting of negative and inconclusive results allows local health officials to better understand whether there are areas of the community that are experiencing more intense transmission and project future trends in in the spread of the virus,” said San Francisco Health Officer Dr. Tomás Aragón. “By sharing high quality test result data at scale, state and local health authorities can better track COVID-19, predict its spread, and better focus public resources to end this global pandemic.”
The laboratory reporting order comes after the latest data showing increasing local transmission of COVID-19, including 930 confirmed cases with 19 deaths in the region. The Bay Area’s total count of 930 confirmed coronavirus cases is more than half of California’s case count. This does not account for the rapidly increasing number of assumed cases of community transmission.