SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — When it comes to beating the coronavirus pandemic and reopening the state, a lot more testing for the virus has to be conducted, medical experts and California governor Gavin Newsom say.
“We are not out of the woods yet, we are not spiking the ball,” said Governor Newsom on Tuesday as he outlined the state’s path toward a possible reopening.
The state of California has only tested roughly 0.5% of its, and population to get people back to work that needs to change.
“It’s not something that’s beyond our capacity, it’s very doable. It’s just a shame we didn’t start this a long time ago,” said Dr. John Swartzberg, public health expert at UCSF.
“We’re beginning to move beyond having tests available for sickest people within hospitals, for healthcare workers as well, frontline workers period, looking to expand the number of sites across the state that have community testing,” said Dr. Mark Ghaly, Secretary of the California Health & Human Services Agency.
But everyone who wants a test won’t be able to get one. The focus will be on those with COVID-19 symptoms or those who’ve been in contact with a positive patient.
It’s very likely your smart phone will play a role once testing ramps up; if you test positive, it will help locate anyone you’ve recently been in contact with.
“To appropriately address the tracing and tracking of individuals, the isolation and the quarantine of individuals using technology and using a workforce that needs be trained in an infrastructure that needs to be in place,” Newsom said.
Swartzberg said that technology paired with teams on the ground will help to quickly get infected people into isolation or sheltering-in-place.
“So technology can be a big boon to helping these people but it still requires trained people on the ground to carry it out,” Swartzberg said.
In addition to testing for the virus, there will soon be testing for antibodies in blood samples.
“It will test us who’s been infected a week ago, two months ago, four months ago. It will tell us how far the virus has penetrated into our society,” Swartzberg said. But there is some uncertainty that comes with the antibody testing that many institutions are trying to implement.
“One of the things we don’t know whether it will tell us or not is: are the antibodies it’s detecting, are they protecting us?” asked Swartzberg.
And if they are protecting our bodies, it’s not certain how long that protection will last, which is why experts believe a COVID-19 vaccine will be so vital in society’s eventual return to normalcy. The other way to be protected is to achieve what’s known as “herd immunity,” which is when so many individuals become immune to the virus that it stops infections.
As for Tuesday morning, the state’s death toll had climbed to 758 — 71 more since Monday. In the 10-county San Francisco Bay Area, there has been 148 fatalities and 5,341 confirmed cases.