California Plans to Double COVID-19 Testing, Newsom Says

August 28, 2020 Updated: August 28, 2020

California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a new contract on Aug. 26 that will ramp up COVID-19 testing in an effort to expand the state’s ability to track and prevent the spread of the disease.

The new contract will provide an additional 150,000 COVID-19 diagnostic tests each day to Californians, with an improved turnaround time of 24 to 48 hours. The agreement will provide reduced costs for tests as well as prevent supply chain logjams, according to a press release.

“We are building our own laboratory capabilities right here on California soil with a stable supply chain to fight the disease, lower the prices of testing for everyone and protect Californians most at risk from COVID-19,” Newsom said in the Aug. 26 press release.

The California Senate Republican Caucus said via Twitter on Aug. 26 that Newsom should have acted much sooner.

“Five months after shutting down California, the Governor finally decides to get serious about building out testing capacity. #CaDeservesBetter,” the tweet stated.

The contract is with PerkinElmer, a company based in Massachusetts with 20 office locations nationwide, including a manufacturing site in Santa Clara. The tests will use polymerase chain reaction (PCR) diagnostic testing, but the contract allows the company to modify the tests if new technology becomes available at a cheaper price.

Under the new contract, each COVID-19 test will cost $30.78—a steep decrease from previous tests, which range on average from $150 to $200 each, according to the news release. To recoup the costs, the state will use a third-party service to bill insurance companies or other payers.

The goal is to begin processing tens of thousands of new tests by Nov. 1 and reach full capacity by March 2021. The contract will initially cost taxpayers $100 million, but could be worth up to $1.4 billion, according to The Associated Press.

The release said that with the broader availability in testing—the California Department of Public Health reported Aug. 27 that 85,658 tests had been conducted statewide in the most recent 24-hour period—the state will be better able to offer testing for communities at higher risk of transmission, including essential workers and minority communities.

Assemblymember Shirley Weber (D-San Diego), Chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus, praised the new contract.

“Black Californians have been disproportionately sickened and killed by COVID-19. I am pleased that Governor Newsom is prioritizing more testing equity for all Californians,” Weber said.

State Senator Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) said, “Californians need testing that is accessible, equitable, cost-effective and timely. This deal meets all those metrics.”

Newsom made the move to increase California’s testing capacity despite recently revised Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines.

The new CDC guidelines, modified on Aug. 24, suggest an individual does not need to be tested for the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus, unless they are vulnerable and showing symptoms—even if they have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for the disease.

“I don’t agree with the new CDC guidance, period, full stop. It’s not the policy in the state of California,” Newsom said during an Aug. 26 press conference.

“We will not be influenced by that change. We’re influenced by those that are experts in the field that feel very differently. That is not the policy guideline that we will embrace or adopt here in California.”

The announcement came on the same day that Orange County opened its second COVID-19 testing super site at the OC Fair & Event Center in Costa Mesa. The new super site will start by providing 500 tests each day for the first week, and then increase to 1,000 tests per day by week two.

Another super site opened six weeks ago in Anaheim. Together, the two sites will provide county residents 2,000 tests per day.

“I am so pleased we are opening this new site to offer additional convenient access to testing for our residents, particularly for those within my district,” Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Michelle Steel said in an Aug. 27 press conference.

As of Aug. 27, Orange County had been off the state’s monitoring list for five consecutive days due to decreasing positive test rates. Once the county stays off the list for 14 consecutive days, all K-12 schools will be permitted to reopen for in-person instruction.

The Orange County Health Care Agency on Aug. 27 reported 369 new COVID-19 cases and 29 deaths, bringing the totals to 47,459 confirmed cases and 947 fatalities.