Sick health care workers and a shortage of rapid tests contribute to COVID testing troubles in Virginia

Virginia

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — As Virginians continue to search high and low for COVID-19 tests and wait in long lines — some only to be turned away — Dr. Laurie Forlano, deputy director of the Office of Epidemiology at the Virginia Department of Health, addressed the testing issues.

Forlano said there are several factors fueling the surge. One issue is that they just don’t have enough rapid tests to distribute.

“We have submitted orders, both directly to manufacturers and through state contracts and many of those orders have just not been fulfilled due to national issues with supply,” she said.

Forlano did say, however, that VDH and Virginia, in general, have an adequate supply of PCR tests on-hand as well as sufficient laboratory capacity.

PCR tests, she went on to say, are mostly done in the private sector, such as in a doctor’s office or clinic.

“It is possible some healthcare providers may reserve that testing for those with symptoms or more serious illness or those who have been exposed,” she said.

Some health care providers are also short-staffed, with workers themselves sick or exposed to COVID. They may temporarily have to cut back on testing.

10 On Your Side is told that’s what happened at the Military Circle clinic in Norfolk on Monday when the line was initially cut off at 500 people. A VDH spokesperson said reinforcements were later sent in and a total of 700 tests were given.

VDH is now working with local health departments to increase community testing. Forlano said there are 51 clinics scheduled this week — up from about 30 in prior weeks.

In the meantime, VDH warns rapid tests may continue in short supply for some, and health officials are asking the public to consider this when in search of tests.

“If you’re able to find the at-home test kits, that you secure those test kits based on your immediate need rather than keeping a lot of extras on hand,” Forlano said.

You should also consider how critical it is to be tested.

VDH recommends anyone with symptoms get tested as soon as possible. The best route would be through your own physician. You should also be tested, regardless of your vaccination status, Forlano said, if you have been in close contact with a person who tests positive. If that is the case, testing should be done three to five days after exposure with day five being preferred.

If you are being tested for travel or a gathering, Forlano asks that you consider how critical it is during this time when healthcare is swamped.

“Is it possible to postpone that nonessential travel, or postpone the gathering with others that may be more vulnerable to serious illness or hospitalization?” she asked.

There are some who do not need to be tested. According to VDH, you do not need to be tested if you’ve been exposed, have no symptoms and tested positive yourself in the last three months, or if you can isolate for the recommended time.

Virginians who have not been fully vaccinated, or are eligible for booster doses, can visit vaccinate.virginia.gov or call 1-877-VAX-IN-VA (877) 829-4682 to find nearby vaccination clinics.

Those seeking to find or schedule a testing appointment can visit vase.vdh.virginia.gov/testingappointment.

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