Virginia has 'very small number' of coronavirus test kits, health commissioner warns

Posted at 6:38 PM, Mar 07, 2020

RICHMOND, Va. -- A letter from the state health commissioner sent to health care providers across Virginia Friday warns the Commonwealth has received a "very small" number of COVID-19 test kits from the CDC.

As a result, State Health Commissioner Dr. M. Norman Oliver said Virginia has a very limited capacity for testing.

Accordingly, the state wants doctors to use certain criteria to identify people for testing who are most likely to be infected.

That criteria includes:

  • people who have a fever and a cough, but tested negative for the flu
  • people who have had close contact with lab confirmed COVID-19 patient
  • or those who have recently traveled from country with a high number of COVID-19 infections

The head of VCU Medical Center's Infection Prevention Program said doctors will consult with the health department when trying to determine whether to test someone.

“It’s not as simple as walking into your primary doctor and say, ‘I'd like to have my cholesterol checked,’” Dr. Gonzolo Bearman explained. “It’s not quite that simple there is much more nuance and it's combination or appropriate signs symptoms, exposure, [and] travel.”

RELATED: Flu strain linked to H1N1 spikes in Central Virginia

Dr. Oliver said private lab companies will begin testing for the virus soon.

To that point, the Virginia College of Emergency Physicians said they want policymakers here to establish alternative testing sites for faster testing so people can self-quarantine and prevent overcrowding at local hospitals.

As of Friday, there are still no cases of COVID-19 in Virginia. In the U.S., at least 236 people have contracted COVID-19 — the majority on the west coast.

More than 100,000 people worldwide have been infected with the novel coronavirus, according to figures published Friday by Johns Hopkins University.

According to Johns Hopkins, 3,411 people have died as a result of the disease — a death rate of about 3 percent. More than 55,000 have made a full recovery.

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