Despite long lines and new outbreaks, California scales back coronavirus testing task force


In the early days of coronavirus testing, California public health officials teamed up with private industry executives for an immediate impact. The group, established by Gov. Gavin Newsom, added over 100 new test sites in three weeks, launched partnerships with new innovative labs, and managed the flow of swabs, chemicals and gear through the state’s sprawling new testing infrastructure.

But as the state now grapples with surging infection rates and looming test supply shortages, the task force has shrunk in size and influence. Dozens of task force members have departed and not been replaced, and the senior health official who oversaw the team has resigned.

The diminished state of the task force alarms some experts and former members who say a fully staffed team is needed more than ever to help a public health department that is chronically understaffed and ill-equipped to respond to emergencies on their own. California has long fallen short on providing adequate testing across the state, a reality that makes it impossible for public health officials to quickly track infectious cases and slow the spread.

The team was established to foster cooperation between the public and private sectors, which is crucial in responding to a pandemic that cuts across the entire healthcare system. The members, many of whom volunteered for three-month stints, came from top health organizations, and the state’s representatives included staff from the governor’s office and various agencies.

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