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Delaware to expand COVID testing options, resources

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Testing expansionThe state is expanding the ways that Delawareans can get tested for the COVID-19 virus, focusing more on employer-based testing, and launching a new webpage to make it easier for residents to find testing sites.

The foundation of the state’s testing efforts remains the 200,000 oral-swab tests it purchased in May from Los Angeles-based Curative Inc., which returns results to the state and the patient within 72 hours. To date, the state has used just over half of the tests, which is bought for $30 million, or about $150 per test.

“We think it’s a fantastic resource that has augmented our testing strategy and we will [purchase] more kits if and when we need them,” said Delaware Department of Public Health (DPH) Chief Physician Dr. Rick Pescatore.

The state has also purchased four field test kits from Labware, the Delaware company that has reduced human errorfrom both the registration and report-delivery process. It has been piloting the program in Florida over the past few months.

DPH is working with Labware to create a secure online system that will enable the state to automate the process, thereby enabling DPH to reduce the number of people needed to staff testing sites, Pescatore said.

Curative uses its own interface so there are no plans to integrate the two platforms at this time, he said, adding that any reported issues with delivery of Curative results to individuals are due primarily to the email reports falling into spam folders or miscoding at the point of registration. The state has had some issues with delivering test responses to people with Comcast addresses and has addressed that with a warning on the Curative registration website, Pescatore said.

“Delaware continues to offer widespread and impactful testing and it is an honor to support them in this statewide effort,” Curative spokeswoman Meryl Dreste said. “We see their testing appointment windows fill up extremely quickly, which is a testament to both their effective advertising and testing site placement. At the same time, they have been continually ramping up their testing efforts to reach more people and ensure that there is plenty of testing availability. In Delaware we have two types of testing — civilian and long-term care facilities. Through civilian testing facilities, there has been an impressive number of people seeking testing. The long-term care facilities are one of our more recent scaling efforts which supported the creation of nearly 100 small testing sites to develop testing protocols.”

In the meantime, the state said it is now – or will soon – offer a greater variety of testing options, including hospitals, hospital-run community testing sites, primary-care practices, urgent-response testing sites for outbreaks; urgent-care and specialty-care centers, federally-qualified health centers (FQHCs); FQHC mobile testing among high-risk populations; DPH clinics; and employer-based testing. DPH Director Dr. Karyl Rattay also said Tuesday that a new agreement with state pharmacies will be announced later this week.

A new state website, de.gov/gettested, also enables Delawareans to input their zip codes and find nearby testing sites and also get additional information that Rattay referred to Tuesday as “Testing Plan 3.0.”

Pescatore said state testing labs continue to show the fastest turnaround time of about 24 to 48 hours, followed by Curative and then other commercially available options that can take a week or, in the case of higher volumes recently, up to 10 days. Most of the Curative tests go through a lab in Washington, D.C., although it does use a lab in Los Angeles when faced with higher volumes, which can add a day onto the turnaround time.

The state has also launched a web-based survey that asks how many employees a business has and what type of business it is. The state says it will get back to the company within 72 hours with advice about frequency and testing strategies.

“Getting employees back to work is a super-high priority for us because there’s a simple link between public health and economic health,” Pescatore said. “There are no plans that I’m aware of to use Curative to set up a site outside of a business, but we do hope businesses will reach out to us to discuss their needs.”


By Peter Osborne

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