Amidst all of conversation about COVID-19 lately, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services on Wednesday afternoon issued an Alaska Public Health Alert that described the situation regarding the current, actual ability of the state’s public health laboratories to test for Coronavirus Disease 2019.
Taken at face value, the notice is stark, and can speak for itself.
“The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated criteria for considering Persons Under Investigation on March 4, 2020 that expands testing to a wider group of symptomatic patients,” states the notice summary.
“However, testing capacity at public health laboratories across the country, including in Alaska, is still very limited,” the summary continues. “At the time of release of this PHAN message, the Alaska State Public Health Laboratories have enough supplies to test fewer than 150 people. ASPHL expects to receive supplies tomorrow to test an additional 50 people. No additional test kits are currently scheduled to be shipped from CDC to Alaska after tomorrow.”
The summary notes that, until additional testing capacity becomes available, the COVID-19 testing will need to be prioritized for certain patients.
“The intent of this brief message is to alert health care providers to the new CDC guidance, and also make clear the reality of in-state testing capacity,” the summary states. “As soon as conditions change, we will disseminate further guidance.”
To recap: Alaska’s public health infrastructure, on Thursday and for the forseeable future, will have the capacity to test fewer than 200 people for COVID-19.
The health alert does not suggest a reason for the current level of testing capacity. It simply highlights that testing capacity is very limited.
Obviously, then, there’s hope that the CDC and State of Alaska are doing their utmost to secure adequate testing capability.
Rumor and misinformation swirl in the absence of accurate, timely data and information. In this case, the only way to obtain accurate and timely information is through an adequate testing protocol that has the requisite resources and is fully operational.