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In the race to expand testing for the novel coronavirus and track the results, California has fallen behind New York and other hot-spot states as an assortment of public and private groups pursue testing programs in an uncoordinated fashion.

A fragmented landscape akin to an orchestra playing without a conductor has emerged with public officials at the city, county and state levels scrambling to come up with testing options and priorities. At the same time, various universities and an increasing number of private, for-profit labs have developed their own testing schemes.

The result has been a confusing, incomplete picture of the virus in California.

Public health experts warn that a robust, coordinated testing program is crucial so the state knows not only who is infected but how quickly and where the virus is spreading in order to effectively deploy limited resources, such as protective equipment, ventilators and medical staff.

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