Testing sidelined as health departments focus on vaccination

Testing sidelined as health departments focus on vaccination
Testing sidelined as health departments focus on vaccination

Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles was the largest COVID-19 testing site in the United States, with the ability to check over 10,000 individuals every day. But two weeks into January, amid a chaotic and slow-moving COVID-19 vaccine rollout, town shut down the positioning with a view to convert it right into a vaccination site. Town closed one other testing site, as effectively, quickly slashing government-run COVID-19 testing capability by one-third.

It’s a pattern playing out across the nation, in states like Florida, Nevada, and Illinois. health departments are working with restricted assets to combat COVID-19, and lots of had to choose: preserve testing on the same level or focus on vaccinating. “We stay very involved that there’s solely so many assets to spread round,” says Lori Tremmel Freeman, the chief govt officer on the National Association of County and City health Officers.

Even earlier than vaccines were out there, health departments struggled to remain on prime of testing and contact tracing. “That was earlier than the introduction of the vaccine, and that’s one other very advanced, layered, response,” Freeman says.

“THERE’S ONLY SO MUCH STAFF WHO CAN DO TESTING AND VACCINATION”

Collier County, Florida shut down all But one county-run testing site in order that health officers may shift attention to vaccination. In November, there have been 4. Staffing was the main challenge, says health toward spokesperson Kristine Hollingsworth. “There’s solely a lot workers who can do testing and vaccination,” she says. The toward is now providing testing one or two days every week. “There’s nonetheless a necessity for checks, and we do get questions about it,” Hollingsworth says. “Fortunately, no less than in our county, there are different clinics and pressing care websites which have checks.”

On the opposite facet of the state, town of Jacksonville converted two testing websites to vaccination websites. Fort Lauderdale converted one site, which may deal with round 1,000 COVID-19 checks per day. In Illinois, officers shut down the testing site on the DuPage County Fairgrounds outside of Chicago in order that the health toward may funnel help towards vaccines.

And in Clark County, Nevada, officers scaled again one of many essential testing websites to 3 days every week earlier than shutting down. That site was working between 600 and 1,000 checks per day, says Fermin Leguen, acting district health officer of the Southern Nevada health District. “The rationale for that’s as a result of we didn’t have the assets to have the ability to open a mass vaccination site,” he informed Tech by Android. “It’s a large challenge for any health toward to have the ability to accomplish each on the same time at a excessive level.”

Leguen says that he hopes Clark County will be capable of reopen the closed testing site sooner or later. “We name this a short lived choice, But it’s contingent on us with the ability to to get extra personnel so we are able to preserve providing the identical level of testing.”

Pharmacies and health centers also provide COVID-19 testing across the nation, so health departments aren’t slicing off all testing once they change to vaccines. toward-run websites, although, are streamlined solely for COVID-19 checks and may course of tons of or hundreds a day.

The relief invoice handed by Congress in December included over $eight billion for vaccine distribution, and that funding may assist native health departments scale their efforts to vaccinate individuals. “Possibly we are able to convert testing centers into testing and vaccination websites,” Freeman says. Testing websites are working easily in lots of areas, and departments may develop on infrastructure that already exists. A drive-through testing heart, for instance, may add lanes for vaccination with out shutting down testing utterly. “We’re not reinventing the wheel, we’re making the most of what’s already been executed,” she says.

The extra funding is welcome But is coming too late for health officers who’re attempting to jump-start their vaccination packages utilizing their current budgets. “These assets were wanted six months in the past to assist arrange the programs,” Freeman says. “We’re simply completely scrambling to play catch-up right here.”

For now, in lots of departments, that has meant letting testing slip down the precedence record. Testing remains to be essential to assist establish people who could also be transmitting the virus, Leguen says. But when weighing the 2, the toward believes that vaccination has the next worth for the neighborhood. “I’ll give choice to vaccination as a result of we need to defend as many individuals as doable,” he says. “The earlier the higher.”