CommunityHealth

D.C. Expands Coronavirus Testing, Prioritizes Key Groups

District public health officials recently announced that local coronavirus testing sites have opened or will open within days at the Children’s National Hospital in Northwest, the George Washington University Hospital, the Kaiser Permanente Capitol Hill Medical Center in Northeast, Sibley Memorial Hospital in Northwest, MedStar Health, and United Medical Center (UMC) in Southeast.

D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services will assist in the launch of Sibley’s testing site. Meanwhile, testing of up to 300 people daily on the UMC campus will happen separately from hospital operations, and in collaboration with the D.C. Office of Forensic Science. Public health officials have also referred residents to 24/7 virtual visits with medical providers.

To help quell the spread of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus, the aforementioned sites will prioritize members of the following groups who show symptoms and have a referral:

• hospitalized patients and health care workers.
• patients in long-term facilities over the age of 65 with underlying conditions.
• first responders, critical infrastructure workers.
• health care facility workers.
• children and adults younger than the age of 22 with a family member in a high-risk category.

When Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) declared a public health state of emergency on March 11, public health officials had the capacity for 15 patient tests per day. Earlier this week, that amount was estimated to reach 500, some of which can be done with robotics.

The loosening of Food and Drug Administration regulations have been credited with expanding the type of lab equipment allowed for coronavirus testing and increasing the local health care system’s capacity for a process that takes anywhere between 24 to 48 hours, in conjunction with the D.C. health department’s lab partner Quest Diagnostics.

So far, the District has spent more than $58 million for the purchase of personal protective equipment and ventilators, and Bowser said that more spending should be expected.

The launch of testing sites has happened amid efforts to secure federal support on par with the coronavirus’s public health and economic impact on the District, which has a population greater than some of the states that received at least $1.25 billion, compared to the District’s $500 million, in the recently approved $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package.

In regard to the systems put in place to control who undergoes coronavirus testing first, D.C. Health Director LaQuandra Nesbitt said it’s in the best interest of containing the spread of COVID-19, which has killed nine people in the city and infected more than 400 others as of Monday.

“When a new testing modality becomes available, it inspires some commentary to the general public that testing will be made widely available to every individual who decides to get tested,” Nesbitt told reporters last week. “Given there’s a number of factors, we’re including the need to keep health personnel safe. That’s what we need to keep foremost in our minds.”

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