Virginia coronavirus models vary as testing shortage continues

Richmond

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam looks backward during a press conference in Richmond, Va. on Wednesday, March 18, 2020. (Dean Hoffmeyer/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP)

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC)- As Gov. Ralph Northam’s administration tries to pinpoint the peak of the coronavirus pandemic in Virginia, at least one model is now placing it in late April instead of the end of May.

By April 20, an analysis from the University of Washington predicts the state could have a shortage of 231 intensive care unit beds to care for high-risk COVID19 patients.

On Monday, health officials said Virginia is still a long way from the widespread testing needed to more accurately track the virus.

“The models are changing all the time because the data on which those models are based changes day to day,” Virginia’s Health Commissioner Dr. Norman Oliver said.

“It’s not a perfect science,” said Gov. Northam.

Dr. Denise Toney, director of the state’s lab, said they’re trying to get the tools to lower turn-around time for test results to as little as 15 minutes. Toney said this technology isn’t available in Virginia currently.

“Even when they do come in place, what we’re struggling with is the reagents and the cassettes that are needed to run these systems are not widely available,” Toney said. “Even if hospitals get the instrumentation, the ability to scale up and run large numbers will still be a barrier.”

New data from the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association (VHHA) shows there are currently 656 people getting in-patient care at hospitals with pending test results. That’s more than half of the 1,194 coronavirus-related hospitalizations in the state.

Last week, Toney said some private labs were taking five to seven days to return test results. She said there’s been some improvement as testing in hospitals becomes more common and additional private labs come online.

“It’s critically important for folks in the hospital to know if they have it and especially if they don’t have it because they [the hospital staff] can decrease contact precautions and the personal protective equipment used on those patients,” said Dr. Daniel Carey, Virginia’s Secretary of Health.

On Monday, 11 Virginia hospitals reported challenges obtaining or replenishing personal protective equipment over the next three days, according to the VHHA.

Gov. Northam said the state just wrapped up a $27 million contract with a Virginia-based logistics company to supply PPE. He said a shipment from Asia is also expected in about a week but the state’s supply is still falling far short of the demand.

The governor also announced Monday that Virginia’s state lab is one of the first in the country to work alongside the CDC to develop a “library of genetic information” from positive tests results.

“This will help us understand the virus, how it spreads, how it may change and help give us the tools to fight it,” Northam said.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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