San Francisco joined other Bay Area counties Tuesday in requiring labs testing for coronavirus to report all tests, not just the cases that test positive.
The new reporting requirement, imposed by health officers through orders, will give San Francisco health officials better data on testing and the spread of the respiratory virus, COVID-19, San Francisco announced jointly with six other jurisdictions.
“Expanding reporting beyond positive results to include timely reporting of negative and inconclusive results allows local health officials to better understand whether there are areas of the community that are experiencing more intense transmission and project future trends in the spread of the virus,” Dr. Tomás Aragón, San Francisco’s Health Officer, said in a statement. “By sharing high quality test result data at scale, state and local health authorities can better track COVID-19, predict its spread, and better focus public resources to end this global pandemic.”
Last week Aragon told the Board of Supervisors he was intending to make this change as one improvement to the public health surveillance system.
He said at the time that when Santa Clara looked at its negative tests that “people showing up with influenza-like illness, 11 percent of them tested positive.”
“That’s a high number,” Aragon told the board last week. “We need to make testing reportable by law so I can tell you what proportion of [influenza-like illnesses] are actually COVID.”
The more comprehensive information will improve health officials’ understanding of the rates of infection and the location of possible infection clusters
According to the announcement, labs report only positive results and that makes it “difficult for public health officials to know how many people are being tested overall.”
“The new order requires laboratories to report all positive, negative and inconclusive results, and information that allows health officials to better locate the person tested,” the announcement said.
The order comes as more entities are doing testing, including commercial and academic laboratories.
San Francisco’s confirmed cases of COVID-19 increased to 152 Tuesday, an increase of 21 from Monday. Health officials say due to limited availability of tests, the actual number of cases is higher.
The announcement said that the Bay Area’s total count of 930 confirmed COVID-19 cases is more than half of the state’s total count of cases.