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Testing For COVID-19 Key To Restarting San Diego Economy

A San Diego county employee explains the testing process to a person with an appointment at a San Diego County COVID 19 testing station by the SDCCU Stadium on May 18, 2020.
Matthew Bowler
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KPBS
A San Diego county employee explains the testing process to a person with an appointment at a San Diego County COVID-19 testing station by the SDCCU Stadium on May 18, 2020.

COVID-19 testing is a key part of the equation for restarting the San Diego economy without restarting the coronavirus pandemic.

“This virus is still taking lives, over 200 lives of San Diegans, and it’s still a very real bio-threat,” said Nick Macchione, director of the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency.

He is in charge of the COVID-19 testing program in San Diego County.

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“We’re getting more people tested,” Macchione said. “I’m encouraged that more people are coming up. We are making it easier for folks to get tested.”

Part of the county’s strategy is getting the testing out of hospitals and doctor’s offices and into the community.

Testing For COVID-19 Key To Restarting San Diego Economy

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That is one reason the county’s live well mobile unit was at SDCCU Stadium on Monday. The county’s Jennifer Bransford-Koons said people just needed to make an appointment and they got a free diagnostic swab test.

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“We’re focusing in on trying to reach as many people as we can who need testing, based on the data of where testing is needed most,” said Bransford-Koons, a San Diego County mobile testing coordinator.

County officials are boosting the number of tests they can give and broadening the criteria for people to get a test.

The county can currently test three people for every 2,000 residents.

Local officials hope to boost that to four because state officials are using the county’s testing metrics to gauge whether more businesses can reopen.

“They’re looking at two things,” Macchione said. “One is the capacity of your testing. And then the actual number of tests that you can accomplish. As they’re looking at that they’re looking at your infection rate. That is, as you’re testing more folks is your infection rate higher, lower, the same?”

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Right now, county officials are looking for active cases, people who are currently infected with the virus.

That information helps trackers identify and control local outbreaks.

“Then I think you’ll see an increase, maybe even a shift for us as a region, as a state, as a county, as a nation, doing diagnostics for those in need, but then really expanding serology,” Macchione said.

Serology is an antibody test, one that determines whether a person has been infected.

Right now, those tests have not been approved by the Centers for Disease Control.

Testing For COVID-19 Key To Restarting San Diego Economy
Listen to this story by Erik Anderson.