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Coronavirus testing in the Sacramento region: What's available and where?

The California Department of Public Health says there are 22 testing sites in California, but most are prioritizing testing for a small, select group.

SACRAMENTO COUNTY, Calif. — One of the biggest struggles so far in tracking coronavirus cases and knowing what to prepare for has to do with testing.

An official with the Sacramento County Public Health Department said its lab is having the same issue that all public health labs are having throughout the state of California, access to a limited number of testing supplies. 

Because of that, county health departments across the state are prioritizing testing for those who are hospitalized, health care workers and first responders showing symptoms, and symptomatic workers in nursing homes and jails.

Recently, Sacramento County has been able to process an average of 50 tests per day, which is up by 30 from the beginning of last week. However, people who live within 50 miles of Sacramento County can now do drive-through testing at Cal Expo through Project Baseline by Verily. That's where they have 200 tests available per day, Monday through Friday. But keep in mind, you must complete an online screener to see if you qualify, then you will be given a reference number to schedule an appointment. You can't simply just show up expecting to get tested.

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In Placer County, where they don't have any drive-through testing sites, public health officials say, "while testing capacity has grown nationwide, it is still relatively limited." And they couldn't provide a clear number of the total number of tests currently available in their county.

But, Placer County health officials did say testing can be processed multiple ways: public health labs for those high-risk groups, commercial labs or hospital-operated testing.

In order to help streamline testing, the UC Davis Medical Center recently began testing patients in rapid order for the coronavirus. Researchers started with samples from the first community-spread coronavirus patient who was treated at UC Davis. This helped set the framework for its in-house testing lab. And while they're able to test quickly, performing more than 1,400 tests per day, these tests are only available for UC Davis patients or by referrals only.

So, if you think you need to be tested, what do public health officials suggest? Contact your primary care provider first. Until there is more widespread testing capacity, people with mild symptoms should stay home, self-quarantine and take care the your symptoms with a doctor's advice.

Coronavirus background

According to the CDC, coronavirus (COVID-19) is a family of viruses that is spreadable from person to person. Coronavirus is believed to have been first detected in a seafood market in Wuhan, China in December 2019. If someone is sick with coronavirus, the symptoms they may show include mild to severe respiratory illness, cough, and difficulty breathing.

Currently, there is no vaccine, however, the CDC suggests the following precautions, along with any other respiratory illness:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds.

The CDC also says facemasks should only be used by people who show symptoms of the virus. If you’re not sick, you do not have to wear a facemask. The CDC says the immediate risk to the U.S. public is low.

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