Mar 21, 2020 - Health

Local officials limit coronavirus testing to health workers and high-risk patients

Photo: John Paraskevas/Newsday RM/Getty Images

In cities and states with sharp spikes in novel coronavirus cases, officials are restricting testing to health care workers and those who have been hospitalized — signaling a new phase in the pandemic response, The Washington Post reports.

Why it matters: The advisory shows the spread of COVID-19 is overwhelming parts of the American health care system, the Post writes. The U.S. isn't familiar with making trade-offs between the "individual and societal good," given its wealth and advanced health care system.

  • While, a test result may be reassuring for some individuals with mild symptoms, the resources used to perform the test could be redirected to possibly save another life.

What they're saying: The new messaging indicates that more people can get tested, but those with mild symptoms should avoid doing so and practice social distancing.

  • The other side: Health experts' warnings come as the Trump administration announces millions of test kits and drive-through sites are becoming more widely available.

The state of play: Cases of COVID-19 are spiking in California, New York, Washington state and other U.S. communities. Health officials are focused on conserving masks, ventilators and hospital beds.

  • Los Angeles County health officials recommended on Thursday that physicians avoid testing patients as a containment strategy. They instead suggested patients should be tested only if a positive result could change their treatment plan.
    • The department “is shifting from a strategy of case containment to slowing disease transmission and averting excess morbidity and mortality,” the Post writes citing a letter from LA County health officials
  • Sacramento officials have ordered residents to stay home except for essential activities.
  • Washington state medical workers have resorted to using makeshift protective gear from Home Depot and craft stores. Officials are limiting testing to health care workers, individuals with severe symptoms and those at a high risk.

The bottom line: "As the flu season recedes, people with cough and fever will increasingly just have to presume they have covid19," the Post writes.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

U.S. coronavirus cases top 1,000 as states scramble to curb the spread

A stretcher is moved from an AMR ambulance to the Life Care Center of Kirkland in Washington state. Photo: Jason Redmond/AFP via Getty Images

The number of cases of the novel coronavirus in the U.S. soared to 1,037 and the death toll to at least 31 by early Wednesday, per data from Johns Hopkins and state health departments.

The big picture: Nearly 40 states had reported cases by Tuesday and at least 12 have declared a state of emergency — Washington, California, New York, Oregon, Kentucky, Maryland, Utah, Colorado, North Carolina, Massachusetts, Florida and Michigan — which reported its first two cases on Tuesday evening.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Mar 11, 2020 - Health

Washington state officials confirm second coronavirus death in U.S.

Coronavirus contained within the endoplasmatic reticulum of a vero E6 cell. Photo: BSIP/UIG Via Getty Images

A second person has died in the U.S. from the novel coronavirus — and just like the first one, it's in Washington state, King County Public Health confirmed in a statement Sunday night.

The big picture: Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) declared a state of emergency Sunday in response to new infections in the state. Washington now has 13 cases. Several of those infected are from the Life Care Center of Kirkland nursing home. Unlike the first coronavirus death in the U.S., the man in his 70s with underlying health conditions who died on Saturday was a resident of the home. Both patients died in EvergreenHealth Medical Center in Kirkland.

Go deeper: Washington state officials confirm first coronavirus death in U.S.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details, including Washington case numbers.

Washington state tests safe voting in the age of the coronavirus

Mail-in Democratic primary ballots for Washington state await counting in King County, which has had the highest number of coronavirus deaths in the U.S. Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

Today's "Super Tuesday 2.0" primaries in six states are a real-time test of how the coronavirus could alter presidential voting — especially in Washington, the state with the largest number of U.S. deaths to date.

The state of play: Washington is a vote-by-mail state, which presents unique concerns and benefits in the face of a health crisis.