COVID-19: State tries to get tests up and running
As hundreds of Oregon doctors called for "expansive" testing for the novel coronavirus, Gov. Kate Brown's office pointed to supply chain issues with labs and foot-dragging by the federal government, and insisted the most "urgent" patients can be tested.
Oregon is facing potentially 75,000 cases of the respiratory virus by mid-May unless dramatic measures are taken to slow its spread, according to the state epidemiologist. On March 12, Brown ordered public gatherings of more than 250 people canceled and closed schools starting March 16.
But widespread testing is not available for Oregonians who have come into contact with the virus or could. Experts have said that testing is key to understanding the scope of the virus. Even those people who don't show symptoms, or have mild symptoms, can spread the virus to elderly people and others at higher risk of getting sick.
But a combination of factors, including lack of equipment and bureaucratic hurdles, have largely kneecapped U.S. testing.
On Friday, March 13, President Donald Trump said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a test developed by a Swiss pharmaceutical company, Roche. Trump claimed up to 500,000 tests could be "available early next week."
(On Sunday, March 15, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control reported that 1.5 million COVID-19 test kits could be available to all states this week.)
Meantime, Brown said that efforts are underway to increase the number of tests available to Oregonians. By how much? It's not clear.
The state's health authority has certified five labs to test for COVID-19. But the labs are still waiting to get necessary supplies, said Nik Blosser, Brown's chief of staff.
The Statesman Journal is a part of a regional newsroom collaboration covering the rapidly changing COVID-19 story.
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