Much needed COVID-19 test supplies on the way to Washington state
The Trump Administration has invoked the Defense Production Act to help ensure adequate testing supplies are available to all states, including Washington.
“I am pleased to announce that following our state’s advocacy for a strong national testing system for COVID-19, the federal government has informed my staff they will be invoking the Defense Production Act to significantly increase domestic production of testing supplies and providing these materials to Washington and other states,” said Gov. Inslee in a statement Thursday.
Inslee has continually pressed the federal government to use the act to mandate production of supplies and ensure a steady flow of things like swabs and transport media, in order to get the swabs to the lab, and enable the creation of a national testing strategy.
“In the coming weeks, they will begin to supply Washington state with a significant volume of collection materials. This will include around 580,000 swabs per month, as well as around 430,000 units of one of two types of transport media used to maintain those swabs as they go to diagnostic facilities,” said Reed Schuler, Inslee’s senior policy advisor.
“Collection of specimens from patients is our most significant bottleneck today standing in the way of increased testing. It is not the only bottleneck that we face. And we’re not relaxing on the rest of our procurement efforts, or the rest of our work to build a robust testing system. We’re continuing to hear a great deal from workers and vulnerable communities and many others about access to testing. We’ll be working tirelessly to address those demands ourselves as well as call for federal attention to these gaps. But this federal announcement today is very good news as it directly addresses one of our most urgent challenges on building an adequate testing system for the state,” Schuler added.
The new influx of testing supplies will help Washington state reach the governor’s goal of testing 20,000-30,000 people each day.
Dr. Charissa Fotinos oversees the state’s COVID-19 testing program, and said expanded guidance from the state Department of Health will also help expand the testing strategy.
Originally, she said the Department of Health recommended testing only people with moderate to severe symptoms of COVID-19, and those in the high-risk groups.
“That’s now been expanded to ask anyone with mild, moderate, or severe symptoms consistent with COVID be tested, and that symptoms include the newly updated CDC symptoms, which add things like muscle aches, headache, shaking, chills, loss of taste and smell, to the criteria for to consider for testing,” Fotinos said.
If testing supplies are adequate, Fotinos recommends including more people for testing.
“We’ve also recommended that if your supplies are adequate, that people who are contacts of persons with COVID positive findings are tested, and that congregate in living or work facilities, that staff and employees be tested if there is a person who tests positive for COVID,” Fotinos explained.
While the influx of testing supplies and the change in criteria for those who can access a test is very good news for Washington state’s battle against the coronavirus, much more will be needed, according to the governor’s office.
“This federal support is an important and welcome step toward a safe and responsible return to public life. However, additional forms of federal support for testing continue to be necessary, as I laid out [in a letter] to Vice President Pence last week. I continue to appreciate the open lines of communication with his office and others in the federal government, and I am hopeful we can keep working together in the coming days to ensure confidence in the laboratory supply chain and meet the full testing needs of vulnerable communities and workers across our state,” Inslee said in a statement.