A brand-new $120 million California COVID 19 testing laboratory received “a higher than expected number” of poor test results, leaving millions of patients waiting for days for results that the state had vowed to return within 24 to 48 hours.
California Governor Gavin Newsom introduced the new COVID 19 testing laboratory in Valencia, California, on October 30 and announced it to the state’s residents as a facility that will process 150,000 tests daily through March. In the meantime, Newsom said the lab will enable the state to reverse the widely criticized social restrictions. But Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of the California Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), told reporters on Tuesday that the lab will get back a “higher number” of inconclusive tests than the researchers predicted. Los Angeles County alone has risen from 750 new cases per day in September to 2,000 last week.
Dr. Ghaly announced on Tuesday that laboratory managers were confident that they had “identified and corrected” the factor behind the increase in inconclusive test results. But so far, the restrictions seem to have become even more severe since the lab opened, and not the other way around as Newsom predicted.
The unforeseen increase in inconclusive COVID 19 test results is due to the fact that the state has seen its largest increase in new cases this week and 11 11 counties have been ordered to return to the more restrictive “purple level” social distancing rules. Theaters in these counties must close, and indoor venues, including restaurants, must once again operate at 25 percent capacity.
California is currently being hit by a “second wave” of infections, health officials said on Monday. Newsom warned the counties that steadily increasing rates of positivity will cause their counties to regress and close more stores. Ghaly said the state’s 7-day positive rate is 4.2 percent, a threshold of 4 percent that has not been exceeded since August. State health officials said on Tuesday that the number of hospitalizations in California has increased by 29.6 percent in the last 14 days, with 5,367 new cases reported on Tuesday alone.
“Instead of pointing fingers and thinking that we could have had a national testing strategy in this country, we decided to take some responsibility,” the governor told reporters on October 30 after receiving a nasal swab at the new testing site. “We tried to take some of the California ingenuity with us.”
The governor said the decision to build the $25 million state-of-the-art laboratory was a response to the federal government’s inaction in ensuring more efficient testing. After California signed a $1.7 billion contract with PerkinElmer, a diagnostics and life research company, financial concerns were raised by several state and federal legislators.
Under the terms of the agreement, PerkinElmer is required to provide patients with results – primarily via email – within 24 to 48 hours of testing.
Washington Newsday contacted the state HHS agency and Newsom’s Sacramento offices on Tuesday night to obtain details of exactly how many tests had returned as inconclusive, but received no response prior to publication.
Ghaly said at the press conference that inconclusive test results had increased because some tests failed to produce a necessary chemical reaction. By the end of October, the state had conducted more than 18 million tests through the new laboratory.
CBS Sacramento investigative reporter Julie Watts of CBS Sacramento walked in with her family last week, becoming four of the first people to be able to measure the success of the lab’s widely publicized testing capabilities. Five days later, each member of Watts’ family had a different experience. Julie and her daughter received their COVID-19 results back within 48 hours-the deadline set by PerkinElmer in their billion-dollar contract.
But Watts’ son received “inconclusive results,” and her husband is still waiting for any results five days after the test was performed.
The results, which came back for Watts and her daughter in just over 48 hours, arrived by e-mail. But the State of California says,